Friday, May 22, 2015

Moment of Clarity

I feel a bit guilty that it has been almost a month since my last post, especially since this time of year contains such great material:  counting the Omer and Shavuot.  The truth is that I just haven't had in me the energy or space to write anything--life has been a little nutty lately, leaving me with few leftover resources.  But I wanted to make an extra effort to write today, on erev Shavuot, because this really is one of my favorite Jewish holidays...and as an added bonus, it's my Hebrew birthday--a good time for contemplation.

One of my favorite Jewish moments of the year comes early in the morning on the first day of Shavuot, when those of us who have succeeded in staying up and learning all night make our way out into the courtyard of the shul for Shacharit.  As dawn breaks and the birds start singing, we stand together as we hear the Ten Commandments being read.  That moment of standing in community, re-receiving Torah under the early morning sky, always gives me goosebumps.

I love that moment because it is both simple and significant.  On the one hand, the Ten Commandments are some of the most elemental Jewish teachings; on the other, they are some of the most profound.  When we hear them being read, all the background chatter seems to fall away as we "zoom in" on what is most important.  That's one of the things I love about Shavuot:  in the middle of one of my life's busiest seasons, it offers me the chance to tune out all distractions and focus on the essential elements of my relationship with Hashem, my values, and my spiritual life as a whole.

Lately, I have strongly felt the need for a "background noise buffer."  Spring always seems to bring out people's body insecurities; the combination of beautiful weather and summer clothing apparently kicks people's diet-and-exercise mentalities into high gear.  I don't know if that's actually a scientifically proven phenomenon; what I do know is that lately I have felt surrounded by people who feel a need to talk about what they eat and how much they exercise.  As a person in eating disorder recovery, I've worked hard to get out of that mentality and I'm proud of the fact that I don't live my life by those rules anymore...but I'm not immune to peer pressure, and I'd be lying if I said that all of that talk didn't get to me at all.  While it doesn't make me actually question my values, it does sometimes make it harder to live them out proudly.  Taking time to refocus on my true priorities is the only way I can remain confident in my own choices, particularly the ones that seem to go against the mainstream cultural tide.  Refocusing provides me with an opportunity to realign myself so that I am living true to my values.

The same thing happens on Shavuot when I hear the Ten Commandments.  In that moment, I remember that my relationship with Hashem, along with everything I learn within the context of that relationship, is my true North Star.  In that moment, everything else falls away and I am free to reconnect to what's most important.  By the time Shavuot comes around, I badly need that moment of clarity, and I imagine we all do.  It's so easy to get distracted and thrown off course...we all would benefit from a moment free of background noise, a moment in which we reaffirm what it is that is truly at our cores.  This Shavuot, may we all have such a moment, and may we carry it with us along our journeys!