Physically Distant but Never Disconnected: Thoughts for Shavuot

More than 2,000 years ago – long before universal education was a popular concept – the Jewish people established a national system of schools throughout the Land of Israel.

In 19th Century Russia, a time and place when Jews suffered terrible poverty and persecution, a Czarist official wrote how shocked he was to find that – in every shtetl he inspected – Jewish girls were educated to be literate from a young age.

Then as now, so much of Judaism revolves around a world of ideas, intellectual discovery, and lifelong learning. Indeed, one of the greatest aspects of working for UJA Federation is the opportunity to connect with Jews from across the spectrum of Jewish life. Even with our wonderful diversity, one of the most powerful common denominators I’ve seen among Jews – be they secular, religious, or somewhere in between – is an extraordinary thirst for knowledge.

I can’t help but be reminded of this truth as I look ahead to Shavuot, the holiday when we celebrate the giving of the Torah by rededicating our intellectual energies to our foundational text. And like so much of Jewish life, Torah study and Jewish learning is most meaningful when conducted together as a community. This week, that isn’t possible due to physical distancing. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that our traditions can be a source of strength and inspiration.

I recently asked local rabbis across denominational lines to share one text they recommend for community members looking for inspiring reading over Shavuot. I am pleased to provide the full list of their reading suggestions below for those who wish to print them in advance of the holiday.

While we may be apart, we are never disconnected from one another – or from thousands of years of rich Jewish thinking – when we are engaged in Jewish study. This Shavuot, wherever you are on the religious spectrum and regardless of whether you’ve ever observed the holiday, I encourage you to take the time to read and enjoy something Jewish that speaks to you.

Warm regards and chag sameach,

Adam Minsky
President & CEO
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto

We are grateful to have received the below recommended readings from rabbis across our community. If you are a local rabbi and would like to add a submission to this list, please click here to connect with us and we will be happy to include it.

Seasons of Love: Rabbi Sacks on Shavuot - recommended by Rabbi Wayne Allen

Egalitarian Society, Jewish Style - recommended by Rabbi Dr. Rafi Cashman

Auschwitz or Sinai? - recommended by Rabbi Adam Cutler

Shavuot and the Meaning of the Covenant - recommended by Rabbi Ed Elkin

Shavuot Message - recommended by Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich

Corona and Keter, Disease and Divinity recommended by Rav Baruch Frydman-Kohl

Kabbalah, Chassidism and Jewish Mysticism- Text of the Tanya: Chapter 32 - recommended by Rabbi Moshe Goldman

Halachic Perspectives on the Coronavirus - recommended by Rabbi Dr. Seth N. Grauer

Reflections on Torah Education and Mis-Education - recommended by Rabbi Jarrod Grover

What is Emunat HaKhamim? - recommended by Rabbi David Kadoch

Hilchos Yom Tov - recommended by Rabbi Elishai Kohananoo

A Brief History of Torah Study - recommended by Rabbi Howard Morrison

The Bones of Brisk - recommended by Rabbi John Moscowitz

The Mitzvah to Encourage the Convert - recommended by Rabbi Louis J. Sachs

Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxyrecommended by Rabbi Yossi Sapirman

Shavuot: Torah is Life - recommended by Rabbi Phillip Scheim

The Exquisite Challenge of Care - recommended by Rabbi Michal Shekel

Ten Jewish Sensibilities - recommended by Rabbi Yael Splansky

Slavery, Morality and Baseballrecommended by Rabbi Chaim Strauchler