Shavuos 2016: neighborhood notes

Shavuos 2016: neighborhood notes

Are you planning on passing by Hasidic Williamsburg on this weekend? The following tips might contribute to your fuller understanding of the neighborhood on these days.

1.. This year, the two-day Shavuos holiday is technically observed on Sunday and Monday the 12th and 13th of June, but since the holiday is immediately preceded by Saturday, the weekly Shabbos day of rest, all holiday preparations, commerce and shopping will end on Friday the 11th at sunset, effectively creating a three-day holiday marathon of Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

2. Days of rest, whether it’s the weekly Shabbos or the 13 hardcore holiday days, means for Orthodox Jews (which includes Hasidim, of course) no use of cars and an increase of pedestrians. Men (and in the morning, some women) will walk to and from shul for prayer services, families walking to and from relatives for the meals and take afternoon strolls on the streets, to the park, and even onto the Williamsburg Bridge or the waterfront in North Williamsburg..

3. Pedestrian traffic on Saturday until sundown will be lighter than on Sunday and Monday. That is because Shabbos to Orthodox Jews (which, again, includes Hasidim) has the additional restriction of “carrying,” a restriction holidays like Shavuos don’t have. “Carrying” in the context of Halacha (rabbinic law) has no relation to the arithmetic technique you hated but eventually mastered in elementary school. Instead, it refers to the prohibition against one carrying in the streets any object other than the clothing one is actually wearing. Prohibitive carrying especially impacts mothers with young children who can’t leave the house carrying the child or pushing a stroller. And so on holidays, unlike Shabbos, the entire family – with the newborn and toddler and caretaker and stroller or double stroller – can conveniently leave the home together to visit families or just stroll the streets. (I shall note that some families do “carry” in Williamsburg on Shabbos, while most don’t. This is the result of a decade-long divide that exists in Williamsburg over an ancient, Halachicly-sanctioned loophole (Eiruv) to the carrying prohibition, a controversy that is beyond the scope of this post.)

4. Late Saturday night until dawn, pedestrian traffic, mostly men, will be unusually busier than would other nights and early mornings. That’s due to an all-night shul service called, Tikkun Leil Shavuot, men attend, or chose to hang out around, on the first night of Shavuos.


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