This week we leave the Book of Leviticus and embark again on our journey as a people to the promised land. To get to the promised land we enter the Midbar—the wilderness. Thus, the name of this Parasha and this Book, Bamidbar. Unfortunately, the journey will not be an easy one. As we read again, in the coming weeks, the ingrained mentality born of slavery, suffering and dependency makes it impossible for these newly freed slaves to see the great possibilities of the future that could lie ahead. Though they experience the Exodus, the splitting of the Yam Soof and the revelation at Sinai with the giving of the Torah, their inability to change will doom them to die in the Midbar and not experience the land and true freedom that could have been theirs.
Last Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Rachel Shere recounted the story of Mohini, the beautiful, blue eyed, white tiger gifted by India to President Eisenhower. Though Mohini was provided with an amazing, lush, acres wide habitat to dwell in, she could only pace in a figure eight, unable to change from the experience of caged confinement in which she had lived previously. Rabbi Shere exhorted us to see the new year then ahead as a time and opportunity for change. I always think of Bamidbar as a metaphor for our life and journey. We learn so many lessons from our history and the stories of the experiences of our people in becoming—and we are all in the process of becoming. The thought of the generation privileged to experience revelation being condemned to the wilderness for 40 years and not get to the promised land is very disturbing. Our world can be so confusing and the challenges so daunting at times. Yet, God gives each of us a map to guide us along the way, keys to unlock the areas in which we confine ourselves and a community to support us. God presents us with opportunities. God shows us signs. If we will only see them and seize upon them. Mohini could not change, but each of us has unlimited potential to do so and to help others on their journeys too.
This coming week is Shavuot, the anniversary of revelation and the giving of Torah. Soon it will be Rosh Hashanah–again. Will it be Ground Hog Day? (Wasn’t Bill Murray great in that?) Or, can it be a time for happy reflection on the positive changes made in 5773 and more to be made in the future? We are journeying in the wilderness with our people in our Torah reading of Bamidbar. Where are we each in our own personal Midbars? Can we use this time to find our promised land?
This Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Rachel Shere. 10:00 a.m.. She will be teaching us about Shavuot and the spirituality of Sinai. I am sure it will be a revelation. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like. I have always found her Torah to be a wonderful guide on life’s journey. Perhaps you will too