These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] Ready!

Posted on May 12, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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Sarah Margles (Year '02, PEP '04) reflects upon preparing
for Shavuot... what does "readiness" mean?


I remember when I first started at Pardes, I would spend much of Fridays getting ready for Shabbat – shopping, cooking, cleaning. When the siren went to light candles, my roommate would inevitably yell out, while running from the bathroom in a towel, “But I’m not ready!!” When we speak of Jewish holidays, we often say things like, “The holidays are so early this year,” or “I love it when Pesach is late.” There is something about readiness that seems integral to our Jewish experience.

Shavuot has a lot to teach about readiness. In Shmot 19:11, as the people are getting ready to receive Torah, God tells Moses to tell the people to go prepare for God will arrive on the third day. But when Moses relates the information to the people, he tells them to prepare for three days, implying that God will arrive on day 4. So, in the experience of the average Israelite, God was early. When I imagine myself as an Israelite in such a situation, I imagine I would have been quite displeased at God arriving early because I wouldn’t have been ready. But that being the case, why would God have kept to Her schedule if the people weren’t ready?

Perhaps, then, readiness is about something different.

It is not about dinner being cooked or the table set or the house being clean. It’s not about learning enough or rehearsing enough times. It’s not about how you look or what you’ve done.

Readiness is about our internal state. It’s about being present to what’s happening – something we cannot prepare for, perhaps something we must un-prepare for.

I believe it is no coincidence that we count the Omer leading up to Shavuot. The Omer has many rules about it and the most prominent one is that we cannot even speak tomorrow’s day today, we must only say the day when we count it on the day. It seems like such a strange halachah until put into perspective about being present. We are not allowed to prepare for tomorrow. We must, literally, only count today.

Our world is very focused on getting us ready, on setting goals, on preparing for the future. But here Judaism is teaching us that the most important kind of ready is on the inside. It is our ability to be present, to take in the wonders around us, to notice the cloud gathering at the base of the mountain and to walk toward it.