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Shavuot and US-Israel Relations

Beginning this Saturday at sundown and continuing until sundown on Monday, the Jewish people will observe Shavuot, also known as Pentecost. Shavuot celebrates God’s gift of His Word on Mt. Sinai, while also being a festival of the firstfruits, a biblical concept well-known to Jews and Christians alike. Writing at Israel Hayom, Yoram Ettinger finds some interesting connections between this biblical observance and the historical relationship between the United States and Israel:

The foundations of U.S.-Israel relations were forged by the Bible-admiring Pilgrims of the 17th century and the Judeo-Christian values-driven Founding Fathers of the 18th century, preceding the evolution of the organized Jewish community, the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel and the appearance of AIPAC on the American scene. These foundations have nurtured a covenant between the American people — and their state and federal representatives — and the Jewish state, which has accorded Israel a unique standing as a foreign, but also a value-driven domestic issue.

The holiday of Shavuot — which commemorates the receipt of the Torah and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai some 3,500 years ago — sheds light on the key values of the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers…

Shavuot is celebrated 50 days after Passover (likewise, Pentecost — a derivative of the Greek word for 50 — is celebrated 50 days after Easter). Passover celebrates the Exodus, which has played a key role in shaping the American story, including the Revolutionary War and the struggle against slavery. The Liberty Bell bears an inscription: “Proclaim liberty upon the earth and unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10),” which refers to the Jubilee — the cornerstone of the biblical concept of liberty — commemorated every 50 years. According to Judaism, there are 50 gates to wisdom, studied during the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot, challenged by the 50 gates of impurity. The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of liberty — a cardinal value in the culture of the 50 states in the union…

Shavuot is the second of the three Jewish pilgrimages (Sukkot and Passover being the other two), expressing the 3,500 year old trilateral linkage between the land of Israel (Abraham), the Torah of Israel (Moses) and the people of Israel (united by King David). According to King Solomon, “a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Abraham, Moses (“the humblest of all human beings,” Numbers 12:3) and David are the role models of humility — a human trait, which is highlighted by the Bible as a prerequisite for leadership.

It has been customary to pave the road from Passover to Shavuot by studying the six brief chapters of The Ethics of the Fathers, a second century compilation of Jewish ethical teachings, sayings and proverbs such as: “Conditional love is tenuous; unconditional love is eternal.” Similarly, Israel is the only unconditional Middle Eastern ally of the U.S., reciprocating the value-driven, unconditional identification of the American people with the Jewish state.

Tags: Holidays , US-Israel Relations

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