Shavuos approaches and the mountain is coming into view.
Not just any mountain, but Mt. Sinai.
The place where Moses received the Torah, its summit hidden in the clouds, divine presence obscured, made real only by a thundering voice.
The Israelites huddled below, the words exhorting them to do and to hear.
So the Torah tell us of the mountain, its height diminished by far taller peaks, but its importance paramount to the Jewish people.
A small mountain, a divine message, a humble teacher.
It is said that every Jew stands at Sinai, every Jew receives the word, every Jew has the capacity to realize its meaning. But each of us stands on his or her own small mountain. Each of us experiences its depths and heights ourselves, each of us has his or her own view from its paths.
It is a lesson that resonates especially at this time of the year, as we focus on the words that have guided Jewish life since that peak experience at Sinai. The words that embody the divine and inform human action. The words that urge us to choose life and remind us it is of our own making. The words that recall divine power and invoke human responsibility.
And they remind us of mountains big and small, the expansiveness of the world we share, and the planet we are obligated to protect, the relationships we cherish, the trusts we are bound to hold, the values we share, and the differences we encounter.
Each of us on our own small mountain, each of us aspiring towards its heights, each of us drawing on the tradition to find our way towards a life of joy and goodness, of meaning and purpose. Each of us in our own way, each of us in our own time, humbled by those who have come before, inspired by those who will come after.
So it is that we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuos, the story of two women, Ruth, a Jew by birth, and Naomi, a Jew by choice. We hear how their paths converge, how their footsteps follow one after the other. Ruth urges Naomi to turn back, Naomi refuses, declaring, “Wherever you go, I will go.” She pledges her commitment, “. . . your people are my people, and your God is my God,” and Ruth lovingly embraces her.
A Jewish story told, and retold, as our tradition endures from generation to generation, each holding fast to the Torah given on the holy mountain while evoking new resonances. Some hewing closely to a well worn path, others charting a new course, both marking new trailheads for those who may follow.
All of us standing at Sinai, all of us seeking to reach its peak.