I had the privilege of running the Bolder Boulder yesterday– the famous 10k race through Boulder, Colorado, along with 40,000 other runners and walkers. I took in the gorgeous run, admiring the Flatirons, cherishing an unseasonably cool day. I noticed a lot of interesting folks holding lawn parties on suburban streets. We saw an Elvis impersonator, a number of bands, a slip ‘n’ slide station, and folks who pledged to take a shot of some alcoholic beverage for every cartwheel performed. Some runners took a break mid-race to grab a cold one at a local bar on Pearl Street, and others were dressed up as giraffes.
But the one thing that stood out the most to me was the fact that everyone was cheering one another on. There was an incredible sense of camaraderie shared not just by the participants of the race, but by the spectators as well.
It felt like literally the entire time– each glorious kilometer — folks were taking time out of their day, to sincerely and passionately cheer me on. I marveled at this phenomenon, asking myself if I would also carve out time in my day to encourage and inspire total strangers, struggling through a difficult physical and mental feat. And I was amazed at how thousands of people did just that.
I have noticed that whereas in my twenties I was filled with tremendous optimism and naïveté about the state of humanity, the thirties has ushered in a strong sense of skepticism and doubt about the overall health and wellbeing of our society.
But I must say that what I saw at the Bolder Boulder helped restore my faith in humanity. Because the Torah tells us famously, “v’ahavta L’reiacha kamocha” or to love one’s fellow as one’s self. Rabbi Akiva says that this is the Klal gadol b’Torah, the central tenant of the Torah. Some of the Rabbis explain that the verse cannot mean that we are required to love someone like we love ourselves, because that is simply impossible to do so. Rather, the verse is instructing us to root for good things to happen to other people, the same way we hope for good things for ourselves. When someone else experiences something good, we should rejoice with them, like we would rejoice for ourselves.
It seems to me that the many spectators of the Bolder Boulder intuitively understood this point. They themselves were not running– they weren’t sweating, and experiencing doubt creep into their heads as their legs began to tense up and get sore. But they seemed to understand that if it were them out there running, they would want support. They would want to be cheered on, and have people rooting for them. So they naturally gave it their all in encouraging the tens of thousands of people running past them.
We are now approaching the Jewish holiday of Shavuos, in which we celebrate the receiving of our Holy Torah. We know that when the Jewish People received the Torah we were K’ish echad b’lev echad we were like one person with one heart. We were one– there was no division, and no strife– we were completely together, totally unified as one nation.
The Bolder Boulder taught me how powerful unity can be, and what it can look like. There are too many major problems in this world to be bogged down with petty fights, arguments, and stupid politics. We need to love each other, and generally root for each other. When things are tough, we need to encourage one another, uplift each other, and be there for one another.
Our history has proven that through this– and only this– can we look forward to a brighter future, culminating with the building of our Holy Temple, may it be speedily in our days.