Sinai Graciousness

Over the past month, which one of your mistakes have you learned the most from? It’s a great question. Chloe Valdary, whose inspiring work helps us see people through a more graceful lens, recently posted a variation of this question. 

I love the question for its assumptions. We make mistakes. We learn from them. Even more, it assumes the value of a mistake grows when we learn more from it. Maybe you said something insensitive. Maybe you didn’t speak up when you should have.

Mistakes are important experiences from which we learn. They show up unannounced, every day, everywhere. It’s up to us to recognize and activate their learning potential.

Then there are entirely different settings in which we learn things. The Festival we now enter, Shavuot, celebrating the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, was a singular history-changing setting for collective learning. Our ancestors encamped around the mountain, mere weeks after God brought us forth from Egypt. At Sinai, freedom from slavery met freedom for learning and committing. 

The Hebrew word for camping (ya-chon) has a kinship with the Hebrew word for grace (chen). 

Using today’s terms, campfire conversation is a lot more enchanting and unpredictable than the impressive output of Artificial Intelligence or CHAT GBT. 

When somebody’s glance seems to be filled with what’s behind it. That is, when it’s beholding rather than searching, you can sense it beaming with grace. 

Whatever helps you learn something new this weekend, from a reconsidered mistake to a fresh look at some idea, may it emit a soft glow that graces the spirits of those around you. 

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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