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51http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/05/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---05_27_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 05_27_2011
05/25/2011 03:56 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
May 27, 2011

 

“Bemidbar”, in the wilderness, is the name of this week’s Torah portion, and the Hebrew name of the Book of Numbers. The book begins with a census to account for members of the Israelite tribes. The rest of the book recounts the journey of the Israelites as they make their way to the Promised Land. The “wilderness” holds unique meaning when it connotes wandering in an unfamiliar place. Yet, it is precisely in this unfamiliar place where they are more open to signs, hints, and hopes.

                Recall your favorite fairy tale. Deep in the woods, lost without parents, children wander helplessly. They’re hungry for any source of help. That’s just when the stranger lurking behind the gnarled tree comes into view. She offers them a way to safety and they follow her. Only later do they learn what we long suspected, that she is nothing but a witch aiming to do them harm. Repeated versions of helpless struggles finally get resolved in acts of redemption in the hands of the children’s savior, maybe a prince.

                Our Biblical book is not a fairy tale, but its epic sequences surely provided roots for subsequent stories of the lost and the found. In our story of the wilderness, the Israelites’ savior was God, ably served by Moses. The Israelites questioned obvious signs of God’s presence. Aaron and Miriam questioned their brother’s authority and were stricken. Moses appealed to God, and healed them. Foreign rulers tried to curse the Israelites, but they were defeated by God’s plan for the Israelites. Eventually, the Israelites found their way when they learned how to act like prophets, when they heard reports about the Land and grew hopeful about their destiny, and when they made provisions to complete their journey upon entering the Land God promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

                Our personal wilderness experiences are not fairy tales, but they have uncharted paths and unsavory villains, too. Pathways that we’ve never known because we haven’t dealt with sudden loss or tragedy in the family, pitch us into a thick and dark wilderness. We find villains there that appear in the form of anxiety, sleeplessness and depression. Like a fairy tale or biblical story, there are redemptive moments, too. We find them in saviors along the way. They are competent doctors, caring social workers, kind clergy, loving family and dear friends – all gifts from God. They truly save us from our trials and show us the way. The challenge is that the safe place we knew before we entered the wilderness is not necessarily the place to which we return when the story ends. The house might be the same but the life we live there is different now. Only fairy tales end with “happily ever after”. Biblical stories end with hope founded on faith that what follows has meaning, too. Except for moral lessons in fairy tales, we would do best to take our cue from biblical endings. The Israelites persevered, and though they didn’t know permanent peace, they were never without hope.

                Normal people don’t like to be lost in the wilderness, but none of us can escape it forever. When we are in the thick of it, our goal is to save ourselves from it. We open ourselves to signs and help. Most of us have learned that we cannot always go back to where we used to be, but, thankfully, there are people whose caring and comforting presence is the light that shines in the darkness to reveal our way home, again.

                May you and your loved ones find the light to illuminate the path you seek back to life, good health, and peace. From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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