The other day, I packed up a big bag of clothes and dropped them off for a friend with a child younger than mine. As I folded them and gave them away, I couldn’t help celebrating that these items were no longer filling my house. Onto the next size, the next growth spurt, the next box of clothes and the one after that.
I find myself spending a lot of time counting milestones, waiting for the next one, waiting for things to get easier, or harder, or to just to change: “I can’t wait until he sleeps through the night,” “My life will be so much easier when I can stop pumping,” “When my daughter goes to Kindergarten, things will get easier,” When they can go places by themselves, when they don’t wake up so early, when they can drive, or stay alone at home, or wash the dishes, then raising a child will be easier.
No sooner did my kids hit one of those milestones, then I was onto the next one. Anyone who has a child, or who has spoken to someone with a child, has probably heard this recitation of milestones. We count, we wish for the next one, and we tick off the moments zooming by.
We are coming to the end of the omer, Judaism’s counting period. Every day, we count a mini-milestone, inching one step closer to the day we will receive the Torah. Like a parent wishing for the next milestone to come, we are yearning for the Torah, for that moment at Sinai where God gives the Jewish people our greatest gift.
The moment of the giving of the Torah offers some instructions for those of us who are in a rush to see our child move onto the next thing and the next. The moments before the giving of the Torah are described as loud and bright, with thunder, lightning and trumpets blaring. And then, silence. The rabbis teach in the midrash that the entire world was silent and still. Not even birds chipped or even beat their wings. It was the kind of silence that parents can only dream about.
And out of that silence came revelation. A new way of looking at the world, a new organizing principle for the Israelites and the Jewish people, a new relationship with God. As parents, our revelations come with far less pomp and circumstance, but probably an equal amount of noise.
But Shavuot trains us to look for those moments, to count towards them and then stop and try to find a moment to appreciate where we are. Every so often, we find a way to stop. We remember when we look our children in the eyes, or give away some clothes that are much too small, and realize that, instead of counting, that we wish that time would slow down.
When I picture the scene at Mount Sinai, I picture the people standing still, not even breathing, waiting for the moment that God would speak. At that moment, the Israelites are in the moment, really living what they are experiencing. And herein lies the lesson for parents in Shavuot.
Shavuot reminds us to be radically present. It reminds us to stop counting and to be in the moment. It reminds us not to think about what comes next. It reminds us that when we stop counting and start paying attention we can experience revelation.