| June 2, 3 (6, 7, Sivan 5766) |
Shavuot, one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals, has something of a dual purpose. In contemporary observance, its most important function is to remember the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Today many Jews spend the night in study, celebrating the gift of the Torah. Many congregations also choose Shavuot as a time to honor young people for their graduations from Hebrew school and to recognize their commitment to learning the Torah. In addition to its religious significance, Shavuot has a second, older identity as a harvest festival. It commemorates the time when Jews brought the first harvest of spring to the Temple.
Recommended reading: Since Shavuot is a holiday for Torah study, readers can use the observance to look at Torah in fresh ways, such as with Rabbi Neil Gillman's Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History, and Everyday Life (Jewish Lights, Mar.), a collection of his columns from the Jewish Week.Another good choice is Rabbi Elliot Dorff's anthology The Unfolding Tradition: Jewish Law After Sinai (Aviv, 2005), with readings from leading Jewish thinkers of the past and present, including Gillman, Solomon Schechter, Mordecai Kaplan and Abraham Joshua Heschel.
| June 4 |
Pentecost/Whitsun (Western Christianity)
Pentecost occurs on the seventh Sunday after Easter (which is roughly 50 days later, hence the "Pente" in the name). The holiday celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples and other followers, as recorded in the second chapter of Acts in the New Testament. The gift of the Holy Spirit, Christians believe, gave these followers the power to build the church after Christ's ascension. Pentecost was once a more important feast day in the Western Church than it is today; the alternate name "Whitsun" (short for "White Sunday") got its name from the fact that in earlier times, newly baptized Christians would wear glorious white robes on Pentecost. Today, Pentecost is more associated with low-church, non-liturgical Christian groups, called Pentecostals because of their ongoing emphasis on miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healings, speaking in tongues and prophecy.
Recommended reading: This has so far been a banner year in Pentecostal studies because 2006 is the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, one of the most significant Pentecostal revivals in the history of Christianity. Jack Hayford and David Moore offer The Charismatic Century: The Enduring Impact of the Azusa Street Revival (Warner Faith, Apr.), examining how the great outpouring of spiritual gifts influenced other 20th-century Pentecostal leaders. Cecil Robeck tells the event's story in The Azusa Street Mission and Revival (Nelson Reference, Mar.), using photographs, articles and personal testimony from eyewitnesses.
| July 10 |
Asalha Puja/Dhamma Day (Buddhism)
Asalha Puja, called "Dhamma Day" or "Dharma Day," commemorates the first teaching of the Buddha after his own enlightenment. It is believed this sermon set the wheel of the Dharma (teaching) in motion. The holiday emphasizes the Buddha's teaching, and sermons play an important part, as laypeople venture to monasteries to make offerings and listen to dharma talks. Traditionally, new monks are ordained around this time of year. In some predominantly Buddhist nations, particularly in Southeast Asia, Asalha Puja commences a three-month "rains retreat," during which monks—who otherwise wander and live as mendicants—remain in the monasteries, studying and meditating.
Recommended reading: Khenchen Thrangu provides interpretation of one of the classic texts of Buddhist literature in On Buddha Essence: A Commentary on Rangjung Dorje's Treatise (Shambhala, July). And in Encountering the Dharma: Daisadu Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhist Humanism (Univ. of California, Mar.), Richard Hughes Seager explores the rise of Soka Gakkai, the popular new religious movement that has combined Buddhist teachings and self-help principles to emphasize service and positive living.