- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On May 26, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
The Wilderness. That’s our focus as we open the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Torah, and begin our journey through it. In Hebrew, it is called Bamidbar, the wilderness. It is a time and place of transformation for the formation of the Jewish people.
We know the story up to this point. Slaves no more, the Jewish people celebrate freedom, stand at Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah but not before fashioning a golden calf to worship. They will need to learn about the responsibility of independence by recognizing their relationship with Moses and the Divine. They do not need an idol. They will need to discover their own strength and power as a community. The wilderness will help them. It will help us, too, to recognize what happens when a community depends on itself powered by a sacred mission to move forward.
In this way, the wilderness experience becomes a place of learning and healing. Some might say that the Jewish people had to expunge the slavery mentality from their consciousness. Egypt imprinted them with the trauma of servitude. Anyone who has faced a crisis, loss or illness knows that the experience and the memory of it cannot be erased; we learn to weave it into the story of our existence. For the Jewish people, too, our slavery narrative is grounded in our liturgy (Michamocha), our rituals (the Seder), and our understanding of justice (“Remember you were strangers, so welcome the stranger into your midst,” the Torah repeats multiple times.) We have not erased it or sent it into a dark corner but rather used it to grow stronger and to become resilient.
Through the years of wandering in the wilderness, the Jewish people learn to cope. It is not easy, as we will discover as we make our way through this book of the Torah. There may not be a straight line from our ancestors to all of us, but there is a line that moves through history that connects us from the wilderness to our own day. What has made this possible is what Sheryl Sandberg calls “collective resilience.” This is the guarantor of our future and our present. As she recently shared at Virginia Tech’s graduation:
“We build resilience into ourselves. We build resilience into the people we love. And we build it together, as a community. That’s called ‘collective resilience,’ and it’s an incredibly powerful force – and it’s one that our country and world need a lot more of right now. It’s in our relationships with each other that we find our will to live, our capacity to love, and the power to make lasting change in the world.”
May we take our challenges, personal and societal, and learn to weave them into our own and a crucial collective resilience.
Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6p.m, and Torah study begins tomorrow at 9 a.m. Live stream HERE. Connect with me HERE.