All those little things we think we know, yet don’t really know the big ones- or pay that much attention to.
Like the 10 Commandments.
I know what the Commandment tablets look like – I know, but more to recite them. Writing this I’m reminded of how little I know about religion, or even its role in my life. Or should I say, how its role is woven into my identity.
So along comes Shavuot, my perfect learning opportunity.
I’ve always called this the ‘dairy’ holiday. Though celebrated to commemorate the Jewish people receiving the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai during their 40 year ‘wander’ in the desert.
The ‘thing’ to do at the first night of this holiday is to stay up all night and study. And because it’s the ‘dairy holiday, there’s ice cream and cheesecake.
I opted for a good night’s sleep. With free time in my schedule Wednesday morning, I thought I’d actually go hear the commandments being read. Something I’d never done before. I was curious: why???? Is it a big deal to hear them read? And why is it important to commemorate their ‘delivery’.
The actual reading is short: a few minutes. And since I heard it in Hebrew, I could have easily missed it. One cool thing: the kids came and surrounded the Rabbi, watching him read. It’s important to pass on the learning to children.
My greater curiosity about the importance of the commandments was satisfied as the Rabbi shared his thoughts. Starting first with the last commandment:
10. Don’t be jealous.
Don’t be jealous of who someone is or what someone has. Don’t covet their car, their clothes, their hair, or (for me) their silver jewelry.
Don’t be jealous of their phone, their tablet, their shoes. Their job, their life.
Ha! How many times has that green-eyed monster reared its fiery head to singe your self-contentment? Don’t we all want – or deserve – what everyone else has?
Someone shared that her daughter-in-law wants what her sister-in-law has. Fill in the blank and that could be me at times. I’m not alone am I?
Deeper, is the question do I really want or need those things. Or, is it something much deeper that I want that I’m missing (I’ll pick door #2).
Then the Rabbi (an Orthodox Chabbad Rabbi, at that) quipped:
Well, at least you’ll obey the first commandment, not to kill another, right?
But he wasn’t done. Actually I thought he was going to talk about Boston, or some other act of genocide/bullying.
“If you embarrass or insult someone and their face drains of color (blood), it is like you’ve killed them. After all, killing someone is draining their body of blood.”
Imagine: Being condemned as a murderer by being a bully?
I know that feeling of my body tightening as in rigor mortis, feeling my face grow red when I’ve been attacked by a venomous word.
It brought to mind: killing someone’s soul, someone’s self-esteem, hope: is as deadly as killing their body. Either way, the heart dies.
Words have power. And so do we. It takes so little to be kind.
So here’s what I think we can all learn:
- Don’t be jealous, starting with don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. Be satisfied with what you have – there is a good chance it is enough (unless it has to do with bad health…). When I covet something of someone else, I tell my myself I have to take the whole package of who they are to get that one thing. Somehow, that makes me realize I’d rather just be me with none of that ‘great stuff’.
- Be kind and compassionate to others. Don’t make little jokes at someone else’s expense even if they have a good sense of humor. Especially if you know someone is feeling vulnerable (and that is most of us most of the time), don’t say things that will belittle them and make you feel better about yourself.
2 little steps that can make my world better – and hopefully yours.
Best of joy to all of us.