Amongst other things, Shavuot reminds us to give everyone a second chance. After Moses came down the mountain carrying the tablets the first time, he shattered them. Up until that particular moment, there had been no more precious gift ever given to anyone, or any people, and it was gone…….in the blink of an eye. Just as G-d gave the Israelites a second chance to prove that they would not worship idols, G-d also gave the Israelites—through Moses—a second set of tablets (proving that we can always improve, continue to grow and do better the second time).
This powerful message is embodied in Shavuot. Throughout the Torah, our ancestors receive second chances. They are encouraged to learn from their mistakes, and to do better the next time. In fact, the Ten Commandments are written into the Torah in two different places. Perhaps this is a reminder that the second time we do or see something, we become more familiar with it, and are better able to succeed.
When we role model imperfection and strive for improvement, we show our children that we are all learning. Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect. Just like G-d didn’t expect perfection from Moses and the Israelites in the desert, we cannot expect perfection from those around us. Let’s learn from G-d and extend a second chance to those we love.
Sue Penn is the mother of three, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.