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Thought for the Day: Shavuot 2021

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“The most profound challenges can only be overcome when we act selflessly together.”

Would we call the summit of a mountain ‘the climb’ or the World Cup Final the qualifying rounds?

The suggestion is seemingly preposterous. But, this is exactly how we refer to the Jewish Festival of Shavuot, which begins on Sunday evening.

Shavuot celebrates the crowning moment of our faith, when we received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. But, its name actually means ‘weeks’, which refers to the seven weeks of spiritual preparation preceding the festival. Its surprising name conveys an important lesson: Often there is as much value in the journey as there is in the destination.

The lesson is relevant to many of us as we excitedly anticipate a long-awaited moment. From Monday, in addition to the reopening of entertainment venues and the opportunity to welcome guests into our homes once again, we will finally be able to hug family members. I’m finding that our nation’s sense of relief and joy is palpable as we move steadily towards a more regular rhythm of life.

The last 14 months have been an extraordinary period of human history. Thrust into a global crisis, the like of which most of us could never have imagined, we have learnt a lot about ourselves. 

The pandemic has taught us that the most profound challenges can only be overcome when we act selflessly together. It is clear that we will need to do just this if we are to have a fighting chance to successfully tackle key, long-term priorities highlighted by Covid-19, such as the mental health crisis and the impact we are having on our environment. 

Now, as we begin to emerge from the crisis, there is a real danger that we focus so much on having reached the long awaited destination, that we lose sight of the all-important journey that got us here, that taught us about our own vulnerabilities, our unavoidable interdependency and our shared humanity. Sometimes it feels as though there is a certain, sad inevitability about longstanding and seemingly intractable challenges and conflict, as the heart-breaking reports from the Holy Land over recent days have shown, but it needn’t always be that way.

As we enter Stage 3 of the Government’s roadmap and our destination is thankfully in sight, the question for which we now need to provide an adequate answer is: What meaningful action will we embark on to sustain our commitment to what we have learnt along the way?