When walking to St. Peter's for Mass, I let two things determine my route: walk signals and sunlight. So I was following the sunshine down Madison when I noticed a little group at the corner of Madison and State, selectively approaching passers-by, offering them leaflets. This happens a lot on State Street. What distinguished this little group was that all the menfolk wore wide-brimmed black hats, black suits with tassles. Not that there were so many of them; they seemed to be a Lubavitcher family (Hassidic Jews). We get Pentecostal preachers at State and Madison all the time. Jews for Jesus some of the time. This was exceptional. But I do remember last year at Palm Sunday, when a Jewish family was offering Passover "kits" and information to passers-by who said they were Jewish. Perhaps it was the same family.
Well, I can understand Passover kits, but what was their motive today? As I waited for the walk signal (standing in the sunshine, of course), I saw a teenaged boy, maybe 14, and got his attention I hesitated to engage him in conversation, because as a gentile woman, I didn't want to put the poor kid into some kind of ritual purity crisis, but I figured that if they were standing on State and Madison, they had to take for granted that there would be some gentile women in the neighborhood. So I asked, "Is there a holiday coming up?"
He nodded, and the broad-brimmed hat gave the nod even more emphasis. "Tomorrow." Really? I was confused. "Which one?" "Shavu'ot," he said, "the feast of the giving of the Bible, the Torah." "Oh, well have a happy holiday!" He gave a big smile and off I went across State, puzzling over this for about ten steps, at which point I could have slapped my palm against my forehead. Of course! It's 50 days after Passover! It's Pentecost! And just as in the time of Jesus and the Apostles, Pentecost is the feast of the giving of the Law, the Torah! That's why our Christian celebration of Pentecost, coming (guess when?) 50 days after Christ our Passover lamb was sacrificed and raised from the dead, has even more meaning than we generally give it.
"Shavu'ot" is the feast of the giving of the Law; "the New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ" (CCC 1966). This is what we celebrate at Pentecost, too. The giving of the law in our hearts.