Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Matot – Mas-ei
Forty years. We got back to the River Jordan. We stand ready to cross, as Moses will recount the whole story of our journey. It almost seems like a graduation ceremony. Each tribe stands prepared to go its own direction, as they here the school principal intone their journey through the wilderness (Primary and secondary education). Indeed, some of the facts they will hear will resound differently than they remember them, but they are at the point of matriculation. No longer wanderers through the sea of the wilderness; they accept the reality that boldly, they are about to march into a brave new world.
I remember graduating high school, college, law school, and rabbinic school. At each stage, I experienced the epiphanic high of knowing that I reached the pinnacle! I was at the top! All was right with the world until the next school year or future challenge. Somewhere along the way, I learned that whatever significant milestone I had surpassed, I still had more to learn and another journey on which to embark. My resume is solid, and yet, it has so many holes left to fill.
Often, I get fixated on those “holes.” I can accomplish something momentous and then realize that I could have been so much better. I cross the finish line and wonder if I could have gotten there more effectively and efficiently if I had only paid closer attention. Then there are those moments when I say, “But for the grace of God …” I would have been an abysmal failure.
Somewhere in between these highs and lows, I still stand afraid. I may have accomplished this one task, but feel completely ill-prepared to face the next challenge. At the apex of my formal education through law school, I still not only had to face the bar exam, but also the establishment of a practice. After celebrating ordination as a Rabbi, I had to wrestle with my competency to serve an entire community in faith.
I have to believe that Israel felt every facet of this conundrum, as they stood at the shore of the river. Looking at the land across the water, they know that they earned it; remember that, had they acted more faithful would have had it 40 years before; still felt insecure as to how to move into the blessing and accept the challenges along the way.
We are human. We struggle to do the best we can. We will fall short, and we will rise above expectations. We will turn the blessings into challenges and find the harshest of challenges turn into the greatest of blessings.
The fourth book of the Torah (Numbers) ends on this note. We experience lots of anxiety and untold celebration – often at the same time and over the same experience. We stand honored to be invited to an affair and afraid we will mess up while engaged. Israel sees the land (the Jordan is not that wide). God promised them the land. Are they finally ready for the land?
Our take away? We take the next steps. We are not lost; we want to be safe. We only fail when we let our fears and disappointments paralyze us. For this reason, we remember that the Torah is a tree of life; it continues to evolve with us. Its texts teach us to understand the continuum of blessings and challenges and to learn how still to say thank you and appreciate the truth that hope is eternal.