What unbelievably frustrating times. On the one hand, we live in the freest country that has ever existed; despite its flaws. Flaws are not the surprise. After all, we are human. Freedom is. It’s not typical at all of governments to be by and for the people, yet that’s what the USA has been successful at for 240 years. But what the freedom has begotten as of late has not been the pursuit of happiness – the recurring shootings, including two at synagogues in the past year as well as 4 attempted arsons of synagogues the week I am writing this – show that something is very off. I don’t pretend to have the ultimate answers to these troubling issues, but perhaps we can take the moment to focus on three points that each of us can advance in our own lives, to better impact the world around us.

Self, mission, and action. Every individual in the armed services understands that one must have a clear identity and knowledge of our responsibilities. This leads us to focus in on our mission, and most importantly, to get it done. As Jews, both as individuals and as a nation, we need to reflect likewise, and perhaps, apropos of the holiday of Shavuot, we can use G-d’s introductory line, His mission statement to the Jewish people, to do so. “And you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Firstly, “And you shall be for Me”: This relationship with G-d might be a complicated one. But when we put aside the baggage and just take in the simple fact that G-d desires this relationship; that G-d cares about what I do and the choices I make, we have a better sense of self. This life is not just one of fulfilling personal bucket lists; it’s about recognizing that G-d put us here for a purpose.

That purpose is encapsulated first in the term “kingdom of priests.” The word Kohen (priest) actually means “one who serves,” but it is typically in the capacity of bringing others closer to G-d. The job of the Jew is to lift others higher. To assist others to understand that this world is not a jungle, it’s a place of meaning and purpose.

And finally, “A holy nation”: Sometimes the above is done in an active way, by actively influencing others, and sometimes that is done as a result of the Mitzvot you do in your own home, even by yourself. People around you will sense it, and see a person living a good, egoless, yet driven life, and they will be inspired to do the same.

Jewish war veterans understand these ideals more than most, having lived it in less than ideal circumstances. But now is the time for action. Tell your stories. Let’s touch people one by one, bringing one and all to recognize the preciousness of every moment of our lives, and to express that by spreading goodness, both within and without. We need to stand up strong and proud and spread the message: Live lives of goodness and purpose. That’s who we are, and what we are meant to do.
I wish you all a very joyous Shavuot!

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019