During the Omer, Be a Work in Progress

May 27, 2014Rabbi Aryeh Ben David

We are right now in the midst of the journey from Passover to Shavuot. If Pesach is our moment of physical courage, Shavuot is our moment of spiritual courage. Shavuot is an encounter with God’s presence.

How would you feel if you were told, “Next week you will have the most powerful life-changing spiritual experience of your life?” Would you panic? Would you be excited? Would you be afraid?

Personally, I would be terrified. If the past is any indicator, I might even run away.

I like my life the way it is now. I don’t want to shake things up. I like order and stability. Most of all, I like being in control.

I know how I would like to answer the question. I would like to say that I am eager and deeply yearning for the spiritual encounter. I would like to say that I am ready and have the courage to embrace whatever this encounter will expect of me.

But, unfortunately, at the present moment, I am really not there.

Why is that? Maybe it’s because I’m still in my year of mourning for my father and, as my kids say, “Abba is a bit off.” Maybe I’m just getting old and losing my youthful passion and exuberance. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through Shavuot as an adult more than 30 times, and it’s difficult to feel that it is new and life-changing.

As I get older and more stuck in my ways, I try to remember Jimmy.

Ten years ago, I ran a four-day spiritual retreat to the desert. Most of the participants were in their 20s, but during the opening circle of our orientation, in walked a very senior fellow. He took a chair and introduced himself to the group, “Hello. I’m 78 years old. My name is Jimmy. For 78 years, I have hated the name Jimmy and always demanded that people call me James. But I’m a work in progress, and I’ve decided now to change that. Please call me Jimmy.”

We were all speechless. How can he be a work in progress?! He’s 78 years old!

But maybe life is measured in the degrees that we have the courage to keep growing, not to get stuck or run away.

The journey from Passover to Shavuot is a journey of courage. Every step is a declaration that I am not running away. I am walking the path to the unknown. I am open to the encounter.

Courage has many faces. Battling the inner demons that whisper: “Don’t lose control. Guard yourself. Protect your independence” takes mammoth doses of courage.

As we move closer to Shavuot, ask yourself, “Ayeka, where are you? Are you where you want to be? What do you need to do to get there?

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