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Read The Articles
from The Jacob Project:

Are You Ready?
Approaching the Jacob Project

Becoming Engaged:
Approaching Rosh Chodesh

What's Possible?
Approaching Shabbat

What Moves You?
Approaching Social Action

What's Missing?
Approaching Yom Kippur

Are We There Yet?
Approaching Sukkot

Meaningful Media:
Approaching Torah

Lands of Milk and Honey:
A Jewish Approach
to Thanks...giving

Celebrating Our Year Together
Our Movement's Principles:
Approaching Reform

Chosen for What?
Approaching Passover

God, Science, and
Living with Uncertainty

It's Your Choice:
Approaching Shavuot
It's Your Choice :
Approaching Shavuot

The sun was setting as we entered the sanctuary for our final Jacob Project discussion—soft orange light streaming in the windows, “dusk” falling on our year together. Our shoes left at the sanctuary doors, we gathered in a circle on the bima floor, at the foot of the ark. As time went on, the sun set completely, leaving us in the dark, talking by just the light of the Hebrew letters, glowing in the ark. A magical space.

Our discussion was about choosing: The Israelites at Sinai chose to accept the commandments and the Torah, which demanded much of them and held them accountable to a high standard, and we, at the end of our Jacob Project year together, face a similar choice: How will we proceed? Regardless of your “starting point”—whether you “buy into organized religion,” whether you “believe in the world of science,” whether or not you have a “relationship” with God—Shavuot demands that each year you, like the Israelites at Sinai, decide: What kind of world do you want to live in? Is Jewish living a way of bringing that world into being? Do you see the value in being held to a higher standard—ritually and ethically—than the secular world demands of you?

Our entire Jacob Project year has been about these decisions, and this choice. During our discussion on the bima, we recalled themes that had emerged in our previous discussions:

- How hard it is to keep Shabbat, when those around you are not

- How Yom Kippur holds us accountable for more than just the sins we commit, but also for our sins of omission

- How eating in the sukkah on Sukkot reminds us that freedom is more than just the absence of enslavement, and encourages us to ask ourselves each year, “are we there yet?” on our journey toward the “Promised Land”

- How Passover offers an opportunity to ask ourselves, “for what purpose were we freed?” and to reflect on the responsibilities that come with being free, being blessed, and being “chosen”

Judaism demands more of us than the secular world. “Charity” is optional and voluntary, but “Tzedakah” is law. “Shalom” means not only “peace,” but wholeness—“making whole the lives of people” (Saperstein). The world of science explains why we feel cold when the temperature drops, but Judaism demands we offer a sweater to those who are shivering. Evolution is about “survival of the fittest,” but Judaism commands us to take care of the less fit in our midst—the widow, orphan, and stranger.

Jewish living presents us with high expectations, and the cycle of the Jewish year offers countless opportunities to reflect upon whether we are meeting those expectations, as individuals and as a community. It is ours to decide whether Judaism offers us, in return for such high standards, the kind of world we want to live in. It’s a choice the Israelites made at Sinai, and it’s a choice Shavuot presents us with each year. It’s your choice.

At the end of our discussion, we each chose our own spot in the sanctuary to sit silently for a few minutes, and then concluded our year to the sound of Rick Recht’s “Y’varechecha”:

You are our blessing,
You are our strength,
You are our future,
We believe in you,
and the choices you will make…
We are proud of you,
and the life that you will choose…
Adonai v’ishm’recha…

--Nickie Roberts

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Yih'yu l'ratzon imrei fi v'hegyon libi l'fanecha Adonai tzuri v'goali.

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