Finding our way. . .

From the mountain, on high. Photo by Vicki Cabot

There is comfort in the circling of the sun and moon, the turning of the earth, the cycling of the Jewish year, spooling out days, weeks, months.

Especially now, as Shavuot, the festival of weeks, nears and the heartbreak of Uvalde and Buffalo is still so fresh, there is solace in the steady counting of the days from Passover to Shavuot, the dogged footsteps of the Israelites trudging through the desert from redemption in the Sea of Reeds to revelation at Har Sinai.

We grapple with the enormity of the loss of innocent lives, those 19 precious children, those two devoted teachers, those 10 Sunday shoppers, and our failure to stem the tide of gun violence, in a country now so fractured, with a populous now so fractious, with issues so fraught with emotion, even as we bury the dead.

So I count the days between, and read between the lines, searching for consolation.

The text tells how the Israelites, those stiff necked people, plodded on to receive the laws from on high on Shavuot, each tribe accounted for, each man and woman counted. And how they accepted the sacred obligations that would bind them together, the responsibility each for the other that freedom requires, with the words, “We shall do, we shall hear.”

And it is, we are told as if each of us, their descendants, was standing at Sinai, each of us held responsible for those obligations pledged for the greater good.

So it is as the weeks between Passover and Shavuot pass, the time narrows as the distance lessens, the wisdom of the sacred text prods us to come together to find our way, to recover to those shared moral virtues that guide us, especially in this time of inconsolable sorrow.

To put aside our clashing interests, desires, passions, pursuits, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks urges, to garner our individual strengths for higher purpose. To talk to each other, to listen, to see society as an extended family to whom we owe the same duty of concern we owe to our own, as the rabbi so eloquently writes. To trust, to think, to feel, and to act for the benefit of others, not just for ourselves.

It is a journey, and it takes time, as the Israelites show us, to cultivate these habits of the heart, as they are called, but resolving to seek ways to walk together, to seek to do what is right and good, for all, can begin to move us towards finding our way forward.

One step at a time.

About the Author
A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in religious studies also from ASU.
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