I’ve been a rabbi for well over a decade, but I still get nervous before I lead almost any service or lifecycle event. Yes, even after all these years. On the one hand, it helps me stay present, it keeps me focused, and it keeps me fresh and on top of my game. To help offset the nerves, I have what I call my “pregame ritual.” Before I lead, I get a hug from my kiddos and do a run-through with Duncan. That touchpoint of confidence and support can clear my head and give me the little love boost I need.
Everyone has their own rituals to manage nerves, from athletes on the field to office employees preparing a presentation. However, these little moments are helpful anytime, not only before a “performance.” A quick touchpoint of love and connection can turn around even the worst day.
This human need to be embraced in the spirit of belief is exhibited even by Moses, the leader of the Israelite nation. This week we read Parshat Ki Tissa from the story of the Exodus. The Israelites are in the desert, they have received the 10 Commandments, and they are now set to continue on their journey, with Moshe and God leading the way. Moshe is on top of the mountain, and he’s delayed in coming down. The Israelites are worried, scared, and unsure of this God that they have yet to trust, so they gather their gold, make an idol, and turn their attention to something tangible.
How will Moshe return to his people after this rebellion has angered both himself and God? How will he continue to lead with this mistrust hanging over them? Moshe needs some kind of reassurance, not only that he can lead, but that God will be with him. God understands this need and instructs Moses to return to the mountaintop for a private meeting. In this meeting, Moshe and God, in a sense, create art together. They rewrite the tablets in a moment of intimacy, connection, promise, and reset.
Who serves this role in your life? Is it a partner or other family member? Is it the neighbor or friend you can call anytime? As humans, we’re at our absolute best when we hold each other up and create together. Parshat Ki Tissa is an extra reminder, especially while we’re still trying to navigate life in a pandemic, that even the simplest of connections can make the biggest difference.