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“Forty More,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

June 23, 2023 | 4 Tamuz 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

I’m still stuck on last week’s Torah portion. In Sh’lach Lecha, Moses sent twelve scouts into the land of great promise. The place they had left slavery for. The scouts returned to Moses and the rest of the Israelites with conflicting reports. Ten of them feared for their lives from what they saw there. The people were giants and they felt as tiny as grasshoppers in comparison. But there were two who saw something different. They saw possibility. Joshua and Caleb knew they would be alright and assured the people that entering into the land would bring uplift. Unfortunately, they could not persuade the Israelites who cried out with overwhelming negativity “and spread calumnies about the land.” (Numbers 14:37)

The land of great promise would have to wait. The Eternal God declared they would need forty more years in the wilderness before they could enter the land. That is a long time.  Some of the people realized they were wrong and didn’t listen to the decree that it would take longer than planned to enter the land of great promise. They defiantly marched toward the hill country.  They believed that the rules set forth by Moses didn’t apply to them. “But the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down and dealt them a shattering blow at Hormah.” (14:44)

When this week’s portion opens, Moses’ leadership is challenged by Korah. He wanted to take charge without earning the role of leader. It doesn’t end well for him either. I can’t help but wonder if Korah and many others felt the frustration of having to wait forty more years for the wandering to end.

Patience would not be easy. The Hebrew word for patience, savlanut, contains the word for suffering. Along the circuitous route they would now take in the wilderness, they would experience impatience and also many challenges, including attempted curses by a local sorcerer. And yet, they would also discover unanticipated blessings.

We don’t always get to choose the direct path to the land of great promise. Sometimes, we are forced onto a circuitous route not knowing exactly the specific path. We, too, encounter curses, frustrations, and great impatience. And yet, blessings still exist. During this wandering and wondering about our future, we will move forward with the hope and discovery that the promise of blessings do await us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Connect with me here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Originally shared June 26, 2020

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