Feeling the Awe on Shavuot.
Start by taking a walk with a two-year-old.
It took me about half an hour to walk less than a block with my two-year-old granddaughter. First there were some potato bugs to look at. Then there were some more potato bugs to look at even though they appeared remarkably similar to the first group. There were some flower petals, some dead leaves on the ground, a butterfly and some ants – which, for some reason, despite their size seemed the most disgusting and intimidating of all.
I tried very hard to just be in the moment and enjoy, even though the other side of me wanted to grab her arm and jerk her along. To where? We didn’t really have a destination; I just wasn’t used to moving so slowly, to looking so carefully, to experiencing such joy and wonder, such precious moments of awe.
The holiday of Shavuot is described as the holiday of the giving of the Torah. The challenge is whether we look at the experience of revelation at Mount Sinai as a past experience of our ancestors or as our own current experience. Do we express appreciation for what we once received or do we appreciate what we are receiving right this very moment?
We are meant to feel as if we receive the Torah anew every day; how much more so on Shavuot. We should feel the fresh excitement of the gift of the Torah, not the reflected excitement of a past historical moment. It is the renewed excitement of receiving the gift today – now.
This is not so easy to accomplish. We take things for granted. We get bored. We get overly familiar (and we know what familiarity can breed if we’re not careful). We may even get jaded. That’s why the Almighty made two year-olds! They teach us how to look at the world with fresh eyes, how to bring that awe back. They show us that a butterfly wing and a rose petal and even a dandelion or a dead, brittle, brown leaf are still awesome and amazing. They are still a present from the Creator.
The Torah really is the gift that keeps on giving, in the truest sense of the expression. The ideas don’t just resonate, they go deeper, they become more profound as we age, as we understand them better. Familiarity actually leads to deeper knowledge and understanding – of ourselves, of our world, of our Creator.
But first we have to make the choice. We can yawn in that bored, careless fashion that suggests we’ve seen and read and heard it all before – and allow that expression of ego to rob us of the ability to see the new ideas, the deeper insights, the real awesomeness of the Torah.
Sometimes we experience those moments in our marriage (at least I’ve heard that others do), those moments when it’s not exciting, when it’s too familiar, when we take it for granted. Then we remind ourselves of that moment we first met, of the initial excitement of discovery, of all those reasons we wanted to pursue a relationship with this person. And we feel renewed and reinvigorated. We recapture that initial thrill but it’s even better. Because we know more. That’s our opportunity with Shavuot as well – we remember the initial thrill of discovery of the Torah and the possibility of a relationship with the Almighty and we can also go deeper because we have a taste of what’s there, of what’s available.
When we take that walk with our two year-olds, our children, our grandchildren, the neighbor’s kid, we make the mistake of pulling them along so we can rush to where we want to go. We need to stop and realize that we are already there. And it’s truly awesome.