Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Devarim

I watched a video about a young lady who was celebrating losing 170 pounds. She said that she just had had enough watching life pass her by. She had to do something. She is now a physical trainer.

I counseled with an individual who, after hitting the age of 40 decided he needed to not only “finish” high school, but wanted more. At 50, he received his PhD in education.

I had a friend in high school who went on to star in professional sports until an injury ended his career prematurely. Rather than get stuck in “what could have been,” he now teaches high school history and pushes our youth to succeed.

When my father retired, my own mother decided to finish college. She went on to law school and earned an advanced Law degree in Securities law. We actually went through law school at the same time. Into her octogenarian years, she is still trying to retire but her clients won’t let her. I don’t know how religious these people are, but I am in awe of their strength.

For every one of these amazing success stories, there are manifold more that have very different endings. It is human nature to get stuck. We cannot always know how the stuff that happens to us will impact us. We can, however, always know that there are more and less productive ways to deal with whatever it is. We all experience hardship, whether it manifests spiritually, physically, or emotionally.

Sometimes the obstacles come from the circumstances imposed on us by life situations. Sometimes, life choices that open doors in one direction create roadblocks in others. Often, we do not realize how stuck we are until the task of getting “unstuck” seems daunting and overwhelming and stares us in the face. It takes superhuman effort to move on … or it takes faith and a push.

This week’s Torah portion gives us a little of both. Encamped somewhere between Mt Seir and Mt Horeb (Sinai), Israel is stuck. They spent a year there and God begins this text by telling them to get up and get out.

Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that God had commanded regarding them … ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go. … See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that God swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’ (Deuteronomy 1)

To paraphrase, “God says that there are incredible blessings out there – go get them.” There is not a greater truth in life. How, though, do we get the strength to move? Ok, in the text, it says that God said so. I am not sure what to do with that. The Bible says that God says lots of things. People pick and choose what they think God “really” said, so, for me, God is not the answer. Even as we languish in our stagnant hell, we know that better answers exist. Having “God” tell us to move is nice, but I am not sure quite an effective answer. Almost in passing, the text gives us the solution.

Each of the above examples will be the first to tell you how much their support network helped on his/her journey. It takes someone getting involved and helping to accomplish healing and growth. This week’s text makes it clear that it was not God sending the people across the Jordan to inherit the land. No, God left these instructions to Moses. He prepared the people for freedom and prepared Joshua to lead them. We need people to hold us and push us.

Faith roots in believing that we matter and that others do, as well. The key to this instruction is not that God said it, but that Moses, on our behalf, acted on it. Every day, we encounter people who are locked into places of hate, pain, pain, or shame. If we understand how much we need people to help us, we need to stand with those in need and help bring them into healing. If we don’t get involved, they will stay stuck. Tradition teaches us, “Kol Yisrael aravim zeh b’zeh – Each of us bears responsibility for each other’s well being.” For whatever reasons people around us are in trouble, we are not allowed to let them sit and dwell in their pain or their dysfunction. As people of faith, we must act. Shabbat Shalom.