- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 2, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
Know where you came from, where you are going,
and before whom you will give an accounting and reckoning. (Pirkei Avot 3:1)
According to Pirkei Avot, the ethical teachings of the rabbis of the Mishnah, the road map to divert one from transgressing is to look back, look ahead and recognize that our actions have consequences.
The Book of Numbers ends this week. The last portion is titled Journeys. It details the locations of the Israelite trek through the wilderness. They looked back.
These were the journeys of the Israelites who started out from the land of Egypt, troop by troop, in the charge of Moses and Aaron. Moses recorded the starting points of their various journeys as directed by the Eternal. (Numbers 33:1-2)
Midrash Tanhuma explained that the Israelite’s past–meaning where they came from–had brought them miracles, life, freedom, strength among many other experiences. The way Moses recounted the locations and places they journeyed to and from reminded them of the resources they had to carry them forward. At this point, Moses could have highlighted the rebellions, the plagues, the destructive force of pessimism and complaint. Instead, he allowed the people to fill in the actual details themselves.
They knew where they were going, too. They had spent forty years in the wilderness. The generation of freed slaves gave way to a new generation focused on the land of great promise. They only knew stories of Egypt. They grew up as wilderness wanderers believing and hoping to arrive in a new land far from the strictures of slavery. And yet, had this new generation learned and acquired the lessons from the one before it? Will it repeat the same mistakes?
Ultimately, the success of the next stage of their journey would be up to them. Their behavior and attitude would determine what happened next. The real trial was how they would claim responsibility as the ones reckoning and being held accountable not only to the Divine, but to themselves and the community as well. The Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings present difficult challenges.
We are all on a journey. Life is a journey, a going, a growing from stage to stage, as the poet has said. As we look back and also look ahead, let us hold ourselves responsible not just to our own generation, but to the next ones after us as well. What we are able to accomplish has enormous potential.
We are OUTSIDE tonight at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat in the garden. If you are unable to join us, please live stream HERE. Come study Torah together at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. We begin with a short service followed by a lively discussion.
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