- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On June 1, 2018
- 0 Comments
Our minds play tricks on us. The distance of time and space deny us the reality of experience. As a result, we manufacture stories based on some of the truths of what we think we remember.
The Israelites suffered a heavy dose of nostalgia in this week’s portion that led them down a grievous path of negativity. Hungry, anxious, and worried, they created a narrative of their time in Egypt as if it was delightful.
…and then the Israelites wept and said, If only we had meant to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all. Nothing but this manna to look to!” (Numbers 11:6)
Their vision of the past was blurred by their desire to have what they most likely did not have as slaves in Egypt. Nevertheless, in their mind’s eye, back in Egypt, they had stability even if at the hands of taskmasters, who made them produce their own straw!
Nostalgia can be sweet, but it can also sour our perception of the present. Moses needed the Israelites to recognize the greater whole, to take their place around the Mishkan, the traveling sanctuary in order to move forward—literally! Stuck in their individual misery of pining for the past, they became immobilized and thus paralyzed not only each other, but Moses as well. He felt aggrieved by their pessimism and it made him despondent.
Sometimes the past is overrated. The future can be as well. What Moses needed was for the people to be present in the present, to focus their attention along with the yearnings and their fears for what lay before them.
The building of the mishkan was complete. Poised to begin their journey, they emphasized a world they no longer occupied, which, in turn, prevented them from appreciation and advancement.
This is a story repeated numerous times in the Torah, but also in our own lives. Nostalgia is a form of anesthesia because it numbs us from this moment we are in right now.
Shabbat comes as an antidote. It sits between the past and the future to welcome us into a moment of presence in the present with a little taste of a more perfect world, a time to stop and be refreshed to face the day and our lives anew. Shabbat is a gift to be here. Now.
Let’s join together for the first day of June at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Live stream HERE. Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning with a short service and Torah reading followed by a lively conversation.
I look forward to your comments and reflections. Connect with me HERE!