Spiritual Care Note for Shavuot

Dear Beloved Friends,

What a tender time. We are in the midst of our collective wandering. We gathered around our ancient question: Why is this night different from all other nights? We left our historic land of slavery, walked through a parted sea, complained in hunger, discovered the manna to quench our pangs, and we now wander. It does not matter that we know the end of the story. Yet we are now tired, irritable, and impatient. We are keenly aware of the smallest good thing. We are grateful. We have surprised ourselves with our ability to create. Some of us have discovered something new. Some of us have been endangered. We have seen graciousness. We have seen meanness. We hope for something better.

We are a few weeks from Shavuot, the holiday that culminates this passage of time since Passover. We will stand at Sinai. Just as we are told that God’s outstretched arm took us each out of slavery, so too each of us stood at Sinai to covenant in a collective gesture of “yes” and received the Ten Commandments. It was then, and remains now, a declaration of relationship. Generations have built upon it, families have been raised by it, we have used it to reflect upon how we care, we have used it as a moral compass, we have struggled with it. Regardless, part of the abiding wisdom of this time of Exodus, is that we are once again in a moment of relational caring. Some of us need great care, some of us have a lot of care to give. Some of us struggle with how to ask for care, some of us struggle to give care. Nonetheless, above all else, this tender moment is filled with the need for care.

How shall we care for one another? Every supportive gesture matters. Caring matters: from every dollar donated to every smile, goofy text, funny e-mail, and tender voicemail. In such an unprecedented time, our curiosity and creativity have expanded our repertoire to care. Whether we believe in God or not, however we come to Shabbat or any holiday, it is an act of care that brings us beyond our own selves into something more than just any one of us. Caring brings us out of our individual selves into a wider community. Caring acknowledges something bigger in the world. Caring is how we can connect to something transcendent. Caring is the path to follow when we wander. Caring leads us to something we can covenant: I will volunteer to bring food to the hungry. I will volunteer to tutor a child. I will give tzedakah. I will give my time. I will give myself. I will be kind.

As we move through this time of wandering, as we contemplate all that awaits us this Shavuot, we all know that the world is not the same. We have seen great pain. We have seen great relief. None of it is resolved. We all know that these past several weeks will linger for a long time in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls. It may take a while to bring it all together. It may take a long time to understand what has actually happened. But, our big collective story will continue. Above all else, let us find the words of caring to guide how we now talk, and eventually write, this part of our covenantal story. Caring is how we are a part of something better.

The rabbis of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center