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Revelation at Sunrise

Sinai didn’t happen just once. It happens all the time. The story we tell of Matan Torah, of receiving the Torah, describes Israel together experiencing the Divine, the Anokhi that is God, in their lives. The miracle was that the whole people shared in revelation. From the water drawer to the most wealthy, from the most physically inclined to the most spiritually elevated, God burst through. In that moment, the Israelites couldn’t bear the pulse of the Divine. They were overwhelmed and afraid and asked Moses to go hear the rest for them. For one moment they channeled the ultimate, the All, but they couldn’t manage to sustain the experience.

Sinai can happen at any moment to anyone. Sometimes it follows years of effort and attunement. Other times God bursts in on a person shockingly and unexpectedly. I do know that study and prayer make such moments easier to experience. God is there all the time, but we often fail to notice. Think of Jacob. He is alone for the first time in his life. Asleep, he dreams of angels ascending and descending. On awakening he says: God was in this place, and I, i, did not know it.

When Jacob lived at home, God was there as well. When he was travelling, still there. But it required the quiet, the sleep, the dream, to be able to realize and experience the moment of revelation. And then he knew that God was in this place, and indeed in every place. That was his Sinai. Yet for us, we are afraid, or tired, or hungry, and we forget to notice. We know that Sinai will make demands on us, it will change us. And so we close our eyes.

Every year we play a game to make it easier, to set aside the fear. We call that game Shavuot. We gather as the sun sets to learn and study, to immerse ourselves in the beauty of Torah. We have finished counting the omer and are ready to arrive at our final destination, namely the Sinai that we can uncover this year. We pray, we eat (blintzes and cheesecake please), and study through the night. Study includes serious immersion into Zohar and experiences of the mystical qualities of food. We do this to get ourselves ready, to read Torah so we are ready to receive Torah. We reconnect with our ancient and contemporary wisdom to attune the mind and the soul in readiness for what Shavuot brings.

Some of us stay up all night. Others rise early to come and pray as the sun rises. And in our courtyard, for the first time ever, we will sing and pray and read of the Israelites standing at Sinai. Perhaps our tiredness will remove a barrier between us and the All, the Place that is God. Perhaps the early hour with all its beauty will remove the mote in our eye that blinds us from seeing the Divine all around us. And with the dew of morning we will celebrate and sing and pray. Together, we help each other to open their eyes and to keep their eyes open. Together, we want to strengthen each other so we, unlike the Israelites, will be ready when that Anokhi that is God sounds. Even though that moment is frightening, it is also our deepest yearning for wholeness and connection. I would really like to share it with you.

Join us for all of Shavuot and especially for our first sunrise service in 5 years after our all night study session. The sunrise service will start at 5am, so if you get up early or want to get up early, you can come just for that as well. (if you don’t have an access badge email me for details of how to get in) Join us or join whatever community is near you so that you can be part of all of us awaiting, preparing, and hopefully experiencing a moment or an hour or a day of sacred connection.

Happy Shavuot!!

Rabbi David Booth

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784