I am planning a trip to Colorado next week. I booked four tickets. I was very excited. Until I realized I booked those tickets for the second day of Shavuot, which is a religious holiday commemorating the receiving the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.Shavuot is also my favorite holiday of the year (with the profoundly heavy day of mourning Tisha B’Av a close second, but never mind that for now). The concept of the actual commemoration of the actual receiving of the actual Torah gets me all excited and energized about being Jewish.
So as someone who both values the “rules” about observing Shavuot, and as someone who values this holiday in particular, I just could not justify flying on this holiday. I had to change those tickets.
Instantly, my head started doing the calculations: Four tickets, four penalty fees of probably $150 each… I almost fainted. I started feeling queasy. I almost rationalized it. Almost.
I emailed my friend, Allison, who is also my study partner and sort of Jewish go-to person for everything. She told me to “trust HaShem.” Not what I wanted to hear. What does trusting HaShem mean!? Does HaShem tell the airline customer service representative to waive the fee? Does HaShem guarantee me a place in the Next World for paying exorbitant penalty fees? Does HaShem look down and decide to make me not care about the possible penalty fee because it’s for something I value more than money?
I called the airline. I explained that I accidentally booked my flight on a religious holiday. She didn’t seem to care and she told me to “hold please” while she did the calculation to change the flight to the next day.
Click click click. Tick tick tick. Typety type type.
“You will receive a refund of $192, ma’am.”
I was stunned. The only thing I could think to say–as if English was my third language, because her sentence was not that complicated- was, “I don’t understand what that means. Can you make it really simple for me?”
Turns out the flight the following day was so much less expensive than the one I had originally booked that even after she applied the penalties, I saved money. I almost fainted. I felt queasy. I almost cried. We finished the transaction and I emailed Allison. She told me she was very proud of me for trusting. This time, that was what I wanted to hear.
The trusting for me was a deep sense of understanding that no matter how much the penalty fee was, I was willing to accept it. That doesn’t mean I am some sort of a martyr, it means I am someone who wants to stand by this conviction because it matters to me a lot. It means something to me. It means everything to me.
So that’s not about believing in some Deity that looks down and tells customer service people what to do on my behalf. It’s not about a Deity that looks down and switches airline fares because I “deserve” that for some abstract reason.
In fact, it’s not about some Deity “looking down” on me at all. It’s about feeling full of something from within me that helps me value things more than penalty fees. I draw strength and want to build a life of integrity and trust from that.
You can call that whatever you want. I call it profound. I call it amazing. I call it receiving.
Chag Shavuot Sameach!