The Journey to Mt. Sinai

“There is Always Hope,” a mural by Banksy, London, England

This afternoon, I called a friend from my days as an 18-year old hippie living in the Oregon countryside. Back then, her name was Sue. Now she is Rabbi Me’Irah. Every time I have what seems to be a casual conversation with Me’irah, I come away with more meaning in my life. “Today is a special day,” she announced (I already knew this because every day is special for Me’irah). It is the time between Passover and Shavuout, she said. Passover is a celebration of liberation — the Jews’ exodus from enslavement. And today is a day of constraints to acknowledge the Jews’ harrowing journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, where they would receive the Torah. Me’irah says we survive this time of constraint and  our isolation by celebrating the bounty and blessings in our lives. And that celebration, I thought, gives us hope.

“Sowing the Seeds of Creation” by Rabbi Me’irah.

Hope has always defined us as humans, motivating change, giving us strength, moving us forward as individuals and communities. The refugees I worked with in Greece and Mexico taught me that when people have hope, they can tolerate a lot of trauma and hardship. My refugee friends needed feelings of hope even more than they needed food.

Wall at Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos in Greece. “Hope” in many languages.

Unexpectedly, more of us are hoping more. We are hoping for relief that could be provided by technologies, behaviors, and science. We are hoping for a return to stability. There are signs that we are also hoping for something bigger and deeper in our global community and in our own lives. In some places, there is a new feeling of solidarity that could make our world more just, more caring, more attuned to what is most important.

Window in Italy — “Everything will be alright” (Photo: Fox News)

But hope requires us to make a choice. Hope is not the same as optimism. Optimism is a perspective that things will work out. Hope requires engagement. It requires action. With optimism, my refugee friends would have stayed in war zones believing that god or politicians would end their misery. With hope, my refugee friends risked their lives to get to Europe and have been willing to do almost anything to remain there.

“Hope,” by George Frederick Watts, 1886. Tate Museum, London. Yes, this is Obama’s favorite painting.

We each have special gifts that our hope inspires, and the world will need all of them. As Me’irah says, this is a time to reflect on what we have learned in our lives that is most true “as we walk through this wilderness, just as the Israelites did, one step at a time, until we reach Mt. Sinai.”

Chinese characters for “hope”

 

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16 comments

  1. As you know, “hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson. Thanks for your post–love it

  2. So glad I know both you, and Me’irah.

    The few among us like you and and like her, are needed like never before in my lifetime. Shine those lights! Tell me how I can help!

  3. Kim, I am SO honored!!!! Steve called to congratulate me…that I had become famous… being published in your work!

    Love you. So much. So precious.

    Me’irah

    Rabbi Me’irah Iliinsky rabbimeirah@gmail.com Versesilluminated.com 757-645-2507

    “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Friends, all we have is Today. Find the love in it.

    >

  4. This blog made me think of a Churchill quote I recently read- “I cannot but think we have much to be thankful for, and more still to hope for in the future.”

    I am grateful for the many blessings I enjoy. I am hopeful for the spreading of blessings to others less fortunate who are struggling during these strange and difficult days. As you say “hope requires engagement” and you walk the talk of that credo.

    And bonus points for the Watt picture Kim! The Tate is my favorite museum. Although I tend to hover for hours around their Pre-Raphaelite collection, I’m always drawn to “Hope” when I’m there. Had no idea it was Obama’s fav! That makes be smile all over.

    1. I thought that was cool about Obama. Watt did a version of that painting with a rainbow around the subject because the first painting was considered not very hopeful. But the first one is the one we know so I chose it. Xoxo

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