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Honoring Our Teens

I am going to share these words at our Shavuot service tonight (May 25), where we honor an extraordinary group of teenagers. Please join us at 7:00 p.m. for Confirmation and Shavuot services.

If you are unable to join us, I thought I would share my message with you:

The text that is generally associated with Shavuot is the Ten Commandments, these ten iconic rules that we Jews have built our lives around for generations. There they are, up above our ark. They urge us to remember we have only one God, the God who brought us out of the land of Egypt. They urge us to honor our parents, keep Shabbat, not murder or steal or lie or covet the belongings of our neighbor. It is a list we have turned to and returned to since the beginning of Judaism itself. No matter the world events or where we live, no matter the state of the Jewish community, these rules have given us direction. They are the rules to live by.

We are told that the Torah was given on Mount Sinai specifically, more of a hilltop than a mountain really, and certainly not as grand as the towering mountains around it. God gave Moses the Torah at Sinai precisely because Sinai is modest and not at all insurmountable. It is a place that you can ascend; you don’t have to be a superhero or super pious or super strong. Moses, after all, was so very human; he was challenged physically and socially and emotionally. He was us. And we are him.

One lesson here for our teens is that you don’t have to be perfect to be good. You don’t have to be the perfect student or athlete or dress perfectly or have the most friends or the most followers. You don’t have to be an epic towering mountain. In spite of its size, Mt. Sinai had a profound impact on the Jewish story. Moses clearly had an impact on the Jewish story. He changed the course of history without being the biggest or most liked or most anything really.

I pray that you remember to be yourselves. That, as much as your life stands to change every day over these next many years as you think about your next steps, I pray that you have the courage to be you. Who you are is sacred and extraordinary. Even if you aren’t the tallest or bravest, you can have a remarkable impact on our world. I know you will. Be yourself. Be proud of who you are and all that you bring to our world. Be proud of how far you’ve come and know that we are with you, rooting for you, forever.