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Bemidbar 5783

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Bemidbar 5783

We are starting a new book in the Torah. The fourth one, the book of Bemidbar, Numbers, or In the Desert, depending on the translation we use. And in this book, a situation is repeated as in the book of Shemot. These are books in which we, the people of Israel, are going through a journey in the desert. There is a difference: in Shemot, what we did was to leave Egypt towards freedom, in Bemidbar, we are preparing for where we are going to arrive.

There is also a similarity: in both books, the people make mistakes. In the book of Shemot, we read about the mistake with the Golden Calf. In Bemidbar, we are going to read about another terrible mistake that will also leave the people in a bad situation and with a strong reaction from the Kadosh Baruch Hu and a defense from Moshe towards the people, just as it happened with the Golden Calf.

We encounter the episode of the meraglim, those spies that Moshe sent to investigate what the land they were heading to through the desert, the Promised Land, would be like. The people react poorly. The meraglim, the spies, react badly by saying that the land is full of giants and that they would see themselves as mere grasshoppers compared to them, and that it would be impossible to conquer it. Once again, the people sink into despair, into that despair that is experienced in both books.

It is easy to make some big change that we have been planning to make. It is easy to make a revolution. Many times, that adrenaline we feel when we want to break the status quo, where we want to change something: in schools or communities, in our relationships, in our families, or suddenly, as happened to the people of Israel, who, prompted by the Kadosh Baruch Hu, wanted to break the chains of slavery. The great revolution. They had to leave Egypt with all that momentum they felt after the plagues and after feeling the adrenaline rush when the sea parted, and then... what comes next?

The day after is the complicated one, when we wake up the next day and ask ourselves, "Now what?" Why did I separate myself? Why did I choose to follow this different path? It is common to have doubts and uncertainties after making a significant decision or embarking on a new journey. It's natural to question our choices and wonder about the purpose and meaning behind them. During these moments, it can be helpful to reflect on the reasons that led us to take that path in the first place. Reminding ourselves of our motivations and the desired outcomes can provide clarity and renewed determination.

Going through the desert is much more complicated. The beginning of a revolution can be difficult, it can be bloody, it can be shocking, but the most difficult part is what comes after the revolution. And for that, for the revolution to have an effect, what we need is to have a clear understanding of where we are going. The people of Israel knew, of course, that they were going to the Promised Land in Canaan, to what would be Eretz Israel. Navigating that path and learning how to conduct ourselves according to certain new parameters was challenging.

It was difficult to acquire the Torah and make it our own. It was difficult to have a clear understanding of the path, and this always happens to us. Separating ourselves from anything we want to, from a partner, from a friend, from a community, from a society. Embarking on a journey is easy, despite the difficulties that come with it. Going through the path we want, knowing where we want to go, involves having a slightly broader vision. It requires a gaze that looks further on the horizon to see what the goal is. Then it gets much worse. We must align ourselves with that goal to sustain the decision we made at the moment of the revolution, when we committed to that separation, to that new construction. To build, to continue building and growing towards the new goal, we need commitment.

This Thursday we will gather again for Shavuot. The moment of the giving of our Torah. Supposedly, we had 49 days to prepare for it. We recommit ourselves to a Jewish life, to educating our children and grandchildren in our traditions. We recommit ourselves to sustaining our Temple Beth El so that it may continue for many more years. That is one of our horizons. Without the commitment of each one of us, and those who are not present today, it is difficult for it to happen. May this Shavuot find us awake, receiving the Ten Commandments and the Torah, along with our entire history and traditions—all together. It is our heritage and our legacy.

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