I am grateful for my colleague and friend Aviva Chernick for the inspiring conversation and teachings that stirred these words.
The earth is renewing itself.
Trees that have been stark and bare for months are coming alive again, dotted with tender green, waiting to open. The light petals of cherry blossoms and the thick pink hearts of magnolias are emerging from their sleeping branches. The birds, I have noticed, are busy and chatty and songful. I have been finding myself delighted by hearing the twitter of cardinals in the high trees long before I catch sight of their red wings or suddenly coming upon a single tree filled with birds all chirping together in a wild, awakened cacophony. Squirrels are excitedly chasing each other and the daylight softly stretches itself later and later into the evening. Out of slumber and death and decay, Life is renewing itself.
In the cycle of the Jewish year too, aligned with the cycles of the earth and growth, this is a time of renewal. This is one of the faces of Shavuot, the festival that begins on the evening of May 30th that gathers us as a people at the foot of Mount Sinai in order to listen deeply and in order to renew life. At Pesach we leave Egypt. We move through and out of oppression and constriction and we celebrate the departure — sudden, brave, and miraculous. Now we are in the movement toward Shavuot, traveling a forty-nine day journey in the wilderness as we grow into something tender and new.
Shavuot celebrates Revelation. It is a holyday of seeing and hearing a sacred reality that has been buried, that we have been blind to, but that now floods our senses — vibrant, awesome, sublime. It is a time of listening to Life Unfolding, that Divine mystery ever-moving, ever-changing, and resiliently eternal. And Shavuot celebrates receiving Torah, teachings and actions that guide them, and us, out of deadened habits, accumulated decay, and slumber toward morally strong, deeply listening and lovingly responsive new life. The Israelites become a people at the foot of Mount Sinai. They transform from being a broken and pained cluster of slaves, to becoming a people who make it their shared commitment to breath conscious new life into everything they do. It becomes their way of walking forward in the expansive wilderness together. The invitation for us is to discover how we might walk forward together with that same commitment.
What are you seeing and hearing in the world that is calling you toward renewal? How can we put one ear to the earth and one ear to the soul-song of Torah, listening for new life? What fresh life do we yearn to breathe into our bodies, into our actions and commitments, into our relationships, into our learning, into our blossoming spirits, emerging out of winter and deadness?
Join us for several opportunities to explore the renewal of Shavuot.
Count the Omer: Count each day from the second night of Pesach until Shavuot with teachings that guide each step of the 49 day journey.
The DJC Goes Hiking — Up Mount Sinai: Sunday May 7th, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Shavuot All-Night Learning at the MNJCC: May 30th. Join me and a few hundred others for a night of learning and discovery. I will be teaching at 9:30 pm on the 10th commandment — Thou Shalt Not Covet: An Exploration of Wanting, Jealousy & Satisfaction