May 31, 2022

Unwrapping the Gift of Torah

Robert Lichtman Chief Jewish Learning Officer

We hold a deeply rooted notion that God is in a place called heaven, somewhere up there. This notion is held by many cultures and religions and is clearly expressed in our Torah and Jewish tradition. Perhaps the most indelible illustration of this is the event that we celebrate on Shavuot. It’s the day that God descended from the heavens and Moses ascended a mountaintop to meet God there. It’s the day when the Torah was gifted to the Jewish People. Poets describe it as the day that heaven and earth kissed. 

It’s interesting to watch some people as they pray; their faces turned upward, beseeching God in heaven. Yet every time we read the Torah that we received on that day, we unroll the scroll and disengage our heavenly gaze to chant its contents. The physical act of reading and studying Torah forces us to look away from the heavens and face the world down here. 

The world down here is complicated and confusing. And when we turn our quizzical faces up to the sky, Moses himself, who experienced the convergence of heaven and earth, reminds us that the instructions we seek are “not in heaven, lo ba’shamayim hee,” (Deuteronomy 30:12). 

The answers are in our Torah and among us who learn it, teach it, and live it. Shavuot marks the historic occasion when heaven and earth kissed, but each year of the 3,336 years since then is also the anniversary of when we were empowered to delve into Torah and apply its teachings to enhance our lives and to improve the world.  

Just as a child is deliriously happy to receive a precious gift, eagerly unwrapping it and turning it over and over to see what’s inside, the child within us will do the same thing on the first eve of Shavuot when we unwrap the gift of Torah and turn it over and over to explore and enjoy everything that is inside.  

This is what will happen in Jewish communities all over the world as we gather for Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night learn-a-thon, beginning after Shabbat on Saturday evening, June 4. Torah is not in the heavens. Torah is right here in Greater MetroWest.   

Many local synagogues offer their own Shavuot learning programming. Here are some places, both locally and online, open to the community, and free of charge, where you can explore the gift that is waiting for you. 


Morristown Area: Tikkun Leil Shavuot – A Community-Wide Night of Togetherness, Study, Song, and Dance to Celebrate Shavuot, Saturday June 4, starting at 8:15 p.m. and continuing into the night. Hosted at Morristown Jewish Community Center Beit Yisrael (Morristown), in partnership with Temple B’nai Or (Morristown), Congregation Beth Torah (Florham Park), Congregation Beth Hatikvah (Summit), Temple Shalom (Succassuna), Gottesman RTW Academy (Randolph), Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and the MetroWest Israeli Community. Register here  

Montclair Area: Join us for a return to our in-person Shavuot community celebration on Saturday evening, June 4 at Temple Ner Tamid with Bnai Keshet, Shomrei Emunah, Temple Ner Tamid, and Temple Sholom of West Essex. We will gather together for a night of prayer, study, and Torah. In addition to our classes, taught by local clergy and congregants, we will be joined by scholar and artist Yael Kanarek whose project Beit Toratah, looks at the role that gendered language plays in our Torah and prayers, and seeks to re-gender the Torah in order to give a fresh lens through which to read scripture. Learn more and register


The Rabbinical Assembly is excited to announce their lineup and schedule for their third annual livestreamed Conservative/Masorti Tikkun Leil Shavuot, Saturday, June 4 starting at 9:30 PM EDT. Access to the experience is FREE for all, regardless of synagogue affiliation or organizational participation.

Temple Israel of Boston is offering 25 Hours of Online Learning, starting Saturday, June 4 at 5 p.m. Learn alongside people from around the world as dozens of teachers, artists, and facilitators lead us in study, prayer, art making, music and more over 25 hours in the zoomosphere. Online sessions run back-to-back all night and day. You can pop in for an hour or two or brew a pot of coffee and stay with us for the long haul. Online learning sessions will start at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 4 and run through 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 5. Learn more 


YUTorah Online, presented by Yeshiva University, offers the Benjamin and Rose Berger Shavuot To-Go 5782 includes a variety of articles, reflections, and perspectives on Shavuot to download (hand-selected by their editors). Download here  

Several rabbis on the staff of the Union for Reform Judaism have shared their own encounters with sacred texts for Tikkun Leil Shavuot Videos and Study Guides offered at Each video explores a different text. Some focus on a commandment, others challenge a difficult passage, while others grapple with age-old questions. Learn more 

And if you have young children at home, take a look at what PJ Library has to offer for the holiday, videos, a book list, activities and recipes!