>"Shavuot* starts tonight," my friend Sara reminded me in an email on Thursday afternoon. "The JCC has a free, all night program (and free cheesecake**) so I'll probably be there for a good chunk of the night/early morning."
"Free cheesecake?!?!" I emailed back. "I am SO there!"
"What about the rest of the schedule? There are at least two programs that you would like, I bet: one on Hannah Arendt and Lucy Dawidowicz, and one on similarities between gospel music and the melodies of traditional Jewish prayers."
"Yeah, those sound good."
I looked up the official event schedule, which ran from 10 pm to 5 am, in accordance with an ancient practice in which people stay up all night at a tikkun (study session). The two sessions Sara proposed ran until 12:15. At 12:30, there were two movies I wanted to see, and a session on "Laughter Yoga." Following that, I was interested in the Alexander Technique workshop. This assumed that I could stay awake that long (which I ultimately decided I could not).
Anyway, I given that this was a free event serving free cheesecake, I should have known that the place would be packed. The line to get into the JCC snaked around the corner when I arrived at 9:50. This made me laugh a lot.
Once I got in, I made a beeline for the food table, only to find it empty. At least Sara happened to be standing there. She explained that the cheesecake would not be broken out until 11:00. My stomach rumbled. (This could have been due to the hunger brought on by the idea of free food or an ominous warning, given what I ate over the course of the rest of the day, to let the free cheesecake go or else.)
Sara and I went to the serious session on Arendt, Dawidowicz, "New York Intellectuals," Yiddish culture, Holocaust interpretation, and everything else under the sun. 40 out of the 60 minutes of the session were fascinating, so I thought that was good. Then it was time for cheesecake. I valiantly fought my way to the tables and grabbed slices for both of us, losing Sara in the process.
We met up again at the gospel session. It was taught by this half-Jewish, half-African American, all awesome woman. Her voice was incredible. When she sang "Wade in the Water" and "Eyes on the Prize," I felt every hair on my arms rise to attention. Unfortunately, she concluded with a group sing-a-long, and I am tone deaf. Still, it was cool singing a spiritual in the JCC, and lots of fun overall.
Now, I make good on my promise to go to bed. As they say, hag sameach!*** May a free cheesecake come your way today.
*Shavuot is holiday celebrating the revelation of the Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
**Basically, no one was kosher before Moses got the laws, so when he came back down, no one could cook meat in their pans because the pans weren't yet made kosher since no kosher law existed until then. So everyone ate dairy products until they got their pans blessed or whatever it is that was required. Hence the cheesecake.