By Rabbi David
It was so wonderful being with many of you during our Shavuot celebrations as we stood together at Sinai!
It’s awesome how spiritual tradition keeps revelation flowing long after Sinai. Ten Commandments were just the start, priming the pump of Torah’s guidance and inspiration that continued to lift our ancestors and carried them forward into a vast, open future.
For us, too. And the timing is potent.
Spiritually, the vast openness of the post-Sinai landscape – wandering for a “long time” – maps to the big open time now unfolding on our spiritual calendar. After five months of frequent holidays and other festival times – Tu B’shevat, Purim, Passover, Omer, Shavuot – suddenly it stops. A long open summer beckons, a needed breather after the historic spring of 2020.
Shavuot also flips a switch. An internal spiritual clock begins to tick. Next up is the runway to the High Holy Day season: Tisha b’Av, Elul, Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuvah, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. The nextness of the High Holy Day journey will soon appear on the horizon – perhaps invisible at first, then deceptively distant, then day by day making its approach ever more keenly known and felt.
Why did you have to go there? It’s barely the cusp of June, and already you’re into autumn? We barely had a spring. Can’t we enjoy this big open time?
Absolutely! This time is to savor: זה היום עשה יהו׳׳ה נגילה ונשמחה בו / “This is the day God made: let’s be glad and rejoice in it” (Psalm 118:24). Long days, bright sun, light clothes, a slow release from lockdown, some normalcy after so long. With June comes time to enjoy the vast openness in every safe way we can. Especially for our Judaism of joy, enjoyment is a spiritual calling as potent as most others we hold dear.
We look ahead not to keep from living in the moment and savoring our here and now in every way we can, but exactly with that intention. We look ahead to the upcoming season to rouse us to enjoy this season and make it all that we can.
After all, this year of challenge is not ended. Even as New York starts to open, the future is unsure. The virus is still claiming victims, still causing untold losses of life and security, still upturning society, still hinting at a possible second wave. Even if we ourselves might be done with it, our nation and planet are not.
Why did you have to go there? There’s been so much suffering in our own community. Doesn’t delighting mean that we can take a breather from all that?
Not really. כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה / “All Israel (all of us) are responsible for each other” (Talmud). Even more, the Hebrew proclaims that we’re mixed up together: we inter-are together. What happens to another affects us. Corona is Exhibit A.
While our spirituality sometimes calls us to go with the flow – to accept what we can’t control, to ease gently into what we can’t change – our tradition also calls us to flow with the go. We are summoned to go spiritually and energetically where we’re needed, to change what we can – and there’s so much need now. We are called to make the most of this moment precisely because it will not last. Even before summer’s secular start, we can see the faint outlines of the High Holy Day journey making a first appearance on the horizon.
And when that time comes, we will ask, as generations before us asked: Did we love? Did we give? Did we repair? Did we forgive? Did we take for granted what we have? Did we squander our precious opportunities? Did we hide? Did we pretend when deep inside we knew better? Did we say that Corona taught us new ways to be, only to forget them when the lockdown ended?
In this season of bright light and long days – may they be for everyone’s health and enjoyment – now is exactly when we rouse ourselves to get moving. Delight in all there is, while also helping repair what is broken, while also preparing for the long slow turn inward.
The sun is high overhead. With Sinai now behind us until next year, now it’s time to flow with the go.
Past corona-themed spiritual messages from Rabbi David:
Week 2: The spirituality of melting down
Week 3: The liberation journey when so little feels like freedom
Week 4: How can we celebrate? How can’t we?
Week 5: Countdown to what’s next
Week 6: On spiritual resilience
Week 7: On Israel: Identity, Pride and “Exile”
Week 8: Enduring Spirit
Week 9: Beyond Ready
Week 10: The Body of Torah
Week 11: Sinai Where You Are