Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Matot Mas-ei

When I was young, I thought people my age were older than old. This week, I begin my 6th decade around the sun. I look in a mirror and ask, “Who is that old man looking back at me?” I am not old; I just look it – at least compared to the adolescent that I feel like inside. I know that there are folks my senior laughing at this, thinking, “He thinks he looks old!?!” Of course, as I turned 30, I thought I looked old then. The truth is that not one us truly appreciates our place in time’s chronology. As kids, we long to be older. As adults, we wish we had naps and cookies before circle time for a story (not that sitting in the lotus position always seems like a good thing). Still and all, we are blessed every day.

What I love about being faithful is that we are always becoming. We stand committed to seeing the potentiality of tomorrow. At the end of every day, we say prayers and do things (including going to sleep) that presume a tomorrow. There will come a day when we know that this potentiality will move forward without our physical presence, but until that day, every time the sun comes up, we are part of the world census and consciousness. When folks tell me that they have received news of a terminal illness, I remind them that it is not terminal until it terminates. Until then, they are alive and should not waste any of it.

This week, Israel gets to the end of its wilderness journey. After forty years of wandering, we are back at the river Jordan. They stood there forty years earlier but were not yet ready to enter the land (remember the episode of the spies). I understand this significance all too well. Last year was my 40th high school reunion. As my classmates and I stood face to face for the first time (for many) in forty years, we had to take stock in all that had transpired and how it felt to be back at the starting place forty years later. Forty years ago, my class was not yet ready for the real world. It came as no surprise that many still may not be. No differently, the rebellious Israel of the early part of the journey was still defiant. Time allows us to change and grow: some people use it, and some do not. Regardless, at every step along the trek, years conclude, and journeys end. At the very same time, the next year and the next adventure commence.

The wilderness journey is over, but the journey into the Promised Land is about to begin. This next chapter provides Israel with a new opportunity/watershed moment from which to grow and figure out how to celebrate the next day. This new land presented unique living circumstances; a clean slate upon which to create new masterpieces. Last year’s reunion afforded me a blessed opportunity to connect and reconnect with people from a long time ago. For some of us, the event opened doors to conversations and relationships we had never thought possible; blessings that we could not have understood forty years ago.

My prayer for us, all of us, is that we find our hearts focused on the potential celebrations available for us tomorrow. Whatever today brought and whatever yesterday recorded, tomorrow is a clean slate. We only have to hate if we choose to. We only have to fear if we choose to. We remain stuck in yesterday’s hurt only if we choose to. We only have to hurt each other if we choose to do so. The wisest of teachings from this week’s Torah portion revolves around Moses’ preparation to leave the people. He tells them, recount where you have been. Count each stop on the journey. Then, walk boldly into a new tomorrow. He will admonish Joshua, the new leader, to be strong and courageous. He will need courage not just to care for a recalcitrant people, but more so to live and proffer his vision for a better future. He will need to be firm in his faith that better attitudes and relationships always stand available before us. Each of us is this leader. For each of us, this prayer of strength is our prayer for every tomorrow. Shabbat Shalom.