You may have seen the custom of adorning a Torah scroll with roses on Shavuot, one of the most gorgeous rituals to honor the receiving of Torah by the Israelites. Today, confirmation of Jewish teens usually falls in the season of Shavuot, appropriately for their voluntary acceptance of the Torah, and the confirmation ceremony sometimes includes "presenting" a rose to the scroll. How did the custom of decorating with roses at Shavuot arise?
As with many things in Judaism, the custom comes not entirely from the text itself but from the exploration of the text by the Rabbis of the talmudic period. They liked to play with language, to dig deeper and find new meanings in the words. Hebrew especially lends itself to this kind of pursuit. In the book of Esther, is says the "decree" (dat) was proclaimed in "Shushan" (a place). The Hebrew letters that make up that make up those two words, with different vowels can be read "The law was given with a rose" as "shoshan" is the word for rose.
To folks outside the Jewish faith, this sort of playfulness with the text may seem odd. But it is, as we say "l'shem shamayim," for the sake of heaven.
Read more about the customs of decorating for Shavuot here.
May your Shavuot be filled with the heavenly scent of roses and the sweetness of Torah. Chag sameach!
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Kim Phillips is a Judaica artist in Nashville, Tennessee. Click here for bio.