We Need a Little Revelation, Right This Very Moment!
A quick glance at the calendar reminds me that Shavuot and Pentecost are a mere week and a half away. Having my feet firmly planted in both Jewish and Christian practice makes for a very rich compote for me as these two observances cycle around again, always in close proximity to one another.
In post Biblical writings Shavuot has come to be known and celebrated as the day Torah was given to Israel. Through the Kabbalists, a tradition of staying up to study through the night on the eve of Shavuot has been handed down as a way of preparing to receive the revelation of Torah in the morning on the day of Shavuot.
In the Christian calendar year, the Day of Pentecost follows close on to Shavuot. It is a day when the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church in a rush of wind and fire - a day when the Holy demonstrated its power to infiltrate and shape the life of the community.
Both Shavuot and Pentecost are remembered and observed as days of revelation.
At Mt. Sinai the revelation came with a quaking mountain, thunder and lightning and thick clouds of terrifying mystery. The potent drama of creation was the venue for the revelation of the law that would shape Israel’s life as a holy people, wisdom for life in harmony and justice and peace. Basic wisdom about not setting up false gods and worshipping them; about honoring our elders; about not murdering or stealing; about not envying what our neighbor owns; about not bearing false witness against another.
In a parallel tradition the Day of Pentecost came with rushing wind and fire and the revelation of the gift of the Holy Spirit - the revelation spoken in such a way that all could hear it in their own language regardless of where they came from.
Christian tradition holds that the Spirit came bringing gifts of holiness for those who could use them. Gifts like wisdom and knowledge, of faith and the ability to heal, of discernment and the ability to interpret spiritual truths.
Taken together the two traditions of revelation form a firm foundation for the human community to live in harmony and wholeness - in holiness. Both traditions have the power to pull us back to center in a time when the wild centrifugal forces of national and global politics send us spiraling away from the most fundamental truths. Truths like being honest and not lying to or about our neighbors - - ordinances about not murdering -either literally or verbally - - like not stealing or envying what belongs to another. The revelation on Sinai seems so fundamental - - and yet is so easily ignored and trampled upon at the highest levels of political machination where adequate health care or a sense of safety can be stolen from the most vulnerable at the stroke of a pen.
Revelation of wisdom for living is at the heart center of Jewish and Christian tradition. The thunder, the smoke and the quaking mountain, the rushing wind and the tongues of fire, all caught the attention of our ancient ancestors.
Our attention has wandered - but we still have the stories and the ritual days that have the power to draw us back to center and to remind us again of the most basic principles for harmonious living. No fireworks, no exploding mountains, no mysterious smoke and clouds, no rushing wind and flames - - just a silent, ageless whisper of intent: “You shall be holy!!” Now - get with the program!!