I was privileged to deliver the following in a “sermon slam” for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot last week. The holiday of Shavuot, literally translated as weeks, is celebrated 7 weeks after Passover, to celebrate the Revelation at Mount Sinai. Tradition teaches that every Jew, past, present, and future, stood together at Sinai at that moment. It’s depicted as a scary, loud moment with the mountain suspended over our heads. It is a foundational narrative of the Jewish people. As such, we slammers were asked to remark on the idea of “Standing at Sinai” I chose to explore the experience of pervasive standing metaphors for the nonambulatory, the unsatisfying resolutions by some, and my own empowering understanding. It was well received, and I was asked to put it up here, so enjoy!
I won’t stand for it. (Tongue firmly in cheek).
Maybe I’ll be a sitdown comic. (Self-deprecating chuckle).
When asked “what do you stand for?” I miss scarcely a beat before I say “not very much.”
I’m used to joking about standing, a humor no doubt born of the alienated feelings of a little boy asked so many times to rise when he could not. I talk about standing ovations that make my neck hurt, and I wait for the drumroll, the chuckle, the moment that will make it okay.
Sometimes the discussion is more serious. Rabbis in ancient texts discussing which prayers I can’t say, rabbis in modern times discussing which devices I can’t use. All face one simple reality: I can’t stand.
I can’t stand.
Can’t stand for a minute. Can’t stand briefly. Never could, never will.
I. Can’t. Stand.
And yet we all apparently stood at Sinai. All of us past present and future stood to receive our revelation.
What does that mean for me? Was I not there? Was there no place for me who could not stand? Have I built an entire theology around a revelation where I wasn’t allowed in?
Or maybe, at that moment, I could stand. Maybe at that transcendent moment, much like the redemption prophesied by Isaiah, all disabilities were removed, and I could stand.
But what does that mean?
If I could not be me to receive revelation, can I be me and the live the covenant? Does a God that has to change me. even to talk to me, really want me?
Is there a place for me in this covenant. This revelation to the people who stand?
One thing I know to be true.
I. Can’t stand.
But wait, Can’t I stand?
Do I stand?
Is it really true that I can’t stand?
In the haze of revelation, I realize that sometimes I do stand. I remember the college party where I stood swaying in a circle my hands on one shoulder to my left and one shoulder to my right as another bore me up from behind. Some meaningless song playing as we swayed in camaraderie.
I remember dancing for the bride and groom at a wedding as again others kept me on my feet, undertaking sacred and joyous obligation
Is this how I stood at Sinai? Leaning on my Israelite brothers and sisters, on my right and on my left?
What’s more, cowering as a group, a mountain hanging above our heads, flame and sound and smoke, did we all lean a little bit on each other’s shoulders?
Did the person bearing the weight of my body for the muscles that would not, could not, take some comfort in my presence?. Did I perhaps bear the weight, a little, of one whose spirit could not stand alone?
I. Can’t. Stand.
At least, I can’t stand alone. I can’t stand without help and support. I can’t stand because I’m too weak alone. To stand for revelation, to stand at Sinai, perhaps we are all too weak to stand alone.
I leaned on you, my brother, my sister, to stand at Sinai, to have the strength to take on the covenant, but perhaps, just perhaps, you leaned on me to.
Perhaps we all stood at Sinai together because we could not have stood at Sinai alone. Maybe we can never stand alone.
Do we ever stand alone? We give thanks for our meals in groups of three, offer the rest of our prayers in groups of 10. A great sage taught his followers that each follower was part of his stairway to heaven, ending a lengthy service because one student left. Without them, he could not stand, climb, ascend.
Maybe this is why it was so important that I did stand at Sinai. Maybe mine was simply the clearest expression of an object lesson for us all.
I. Can’t. Stand.
But neither can you. Against the weight of the covenant, we stood at Sinai together because it’s the only way we could. Each of us yes, but only each of us together. Our own commitment, but leaning on each other. I stood at Sinai, because I stood with you.