This is an incredible Parsha. We begin a 40-year journey back to land of our Ancestors. In this portion we experience, freedom, pursuit, death, jubilation, courage, doubt, rules, commandments, attack, and the First Shabbat.
It is written in Midrash as well as discussed by Maimonides that God could have taken us by a shorter route bringing us home in a few days. God knew we would have had to deal with the fierce warring Philistines and feared that we would either parish or choose to return to Egypt and a life of slavery.
God chose the long way. This gave God time to teach through small difficulties at a time. We needed structure. We were given rules and commandments. God taught us how to become a people together.
At first the Israelites follow Moses on faith alone. They continue to loose faith as soon as they are faced with any adversity.
The first test is at the Red Sea.
Doubt: the arrival of the Egyptian Army! How to cross the sea? God guides Moses to lift his rod. The sea separates. We cross to safety. The Egyptian Army drowns.
Jubilation: Miriam takes up her timbrels to sing and dance with the women.
They soon meet with more difficulties. First it is a lack of water. Next it is a lack of food. Each time they loose faith, Moses talks to God. God guides Moses to water. God gives a daily portion of Manna for six days with a double portion on the 6th day and proclaiming the 7th day as a day of rest. The first Shabbat. God
continues to guide them with rules and commandments to live by. Doubt, Celebration and Faith become continual themes in this portion. When they doubt, they are attacked by strong forces to strengthen their courage and conviction. Their strength, courage, and faith continue to weaken. After some time, they are attacked by the Amalikites. It is said that whenever Israel begins to loose faith, an Amalek unexpectedly appears.
An Amelek refers to our Battles In The Realm Of The Spirit. The only successful weapons against them battle are: FAITH, COURAGE, CONVICTION, TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS.
It takes courage, and conviction, to go deeply with our beliefs.
Each time the Israelites are faced with difficulties they begin to doubt. When things are good they rejoice like Miriam. At the slightest sign of adversity we quickly turn to doubt. We have lost our Faith.
Doubting effects our courage. It colors our vision just like a cataract. Modern medicine can easily remove a cataract. What do we have to do to remove our cataract, our clouded vision in the face of adversity?
When Moses is in doubt, he goes into the realm of the spirit and communes with God in quiet and reflection. In reflection we can gain time to look at all sides and consider all possibilities. Given enough time vision has more opportunity to appear. We must carefully examine all sides of the difficulty and take the time to allow the new to come to our consciousness.
Truth is everywhere. It only needs to be discovered.
If we can understand that doubt is just a temporary loss of vision, we can allow the time for our vision to clear. Each time our vision clears, it feels just like a miracle. It is like Manna appearing before our very eyes.
FAITH We have to have something that we believe in. Our Moses had God. The Israelites had Doubt, Moses and then God. Having faith in something helps you to become calm.
What do you have that you believe in when doubt appears?
Some of us have a sense of patience.
Some go into a place of quiet reflection.
Some turn to God.
When we loose our faith:
Some feel frightened.
Some become ill.
Some strike out.
We need to remember that things can actually resolve themselves if we just leave it alone for a while. Like that time worn expression: ėTime Heals All Things.ķ
The Israelites were given many years to learn and grow and trust. We are given a lifetime.
When we stay in our doubt the body is effected. It can cloud our greater vision. It can cause tension to the brain bringing tension into all the muscles of the body. Pretty soon we are unhappy. Unhappiness can cause a host of troubles.
How do we deal with unhappiness? Do we retreat into the loneliness of our own fears? Do we strike out at the world and all around us?
STORY: One evening while waiting for the elevator I met a very irate woman. She had lost her key somewhere. She believed she had the key in her hand in the elevator that had brought her to her floor. She was waiting for the elevator again on order to search the floor for her key. Two women arrived along with their Walkers. Walkers are the lifesavers of many. Without them many people would be dependent on others for their mobility. The elevator arrived and was quite full. The women with walkers were invited on first. The lost key lady decided it was to full for her to search for her key. She was very upset and began to badmouth all the Walkers in the world. They all needed to be blown into oblivion! She proceeded to complain about everything she could think of. There was no way to appease her. She had lost faith in herself, doubting her own self worth due to the loss of her key. This doubting fear affected her entire demeanor. She was striking out at the world around her.
Does this ring a bell? Can you remember times of doubt in your own lives. Did you turn to god like Moses? Did you get self-righteous like the doubting Israelites ready to take flight at the first sign of difficulties or the woman in my story? We have a choice to take the path Moses takes. We can enter the realm of the spirit in Reflection and Contemplation. We can wait for the cataract clouding our thinking to lift. In this lifting be begin to realize there are two sides to the situation before us.
This is where the heart can be given the space to open and thinking begins to discover other choices like compassion.
What do I need?
What are the needs of the other?
What can I understand?
What can I offer here?
It takes the will to open, to take time, to be willing to remove the cataract from our hearts.
In this portion we are given much time as well as guidance to learn about getting along with each other, sharing, governing, patience, working together, and having faith in something greater than oneself.
Have there been times in your life that felt like wandering in the desert?
Have you noticed how courage comes and goes?
Have you sometimes made choices from the realm of the spirit?
Do we take enough time to appreciate all the moments in your life or are you too busy with your own Mishagos!
Look at the Israelites. They came from slavery into freedom. Every day is a new adventure. They can sleep as long as they want visit their neighbors and friends whenever they choose, and stretch out to their fullness in every way. What happens!
At the very first sign of a problem they get frightened and want to turn back. They get quarrelsome and judgmental. They begin to doubt. Their greater vision gets cloudy.
When we become a doubting Thomas what can we do? We can be still inside.
We can be open to change.
We can discover our own inner humanity.
We can look more clearly at the situation to see if there is another way to approach the situation. If we are still enough and ask for guidance in the face of adversity we might be given a higher guidance. Just like the Torah tells us Moses did. Every moment in life is a gift as well as an adventure. Look around you at your friends, the beauty or the colors and shapes all around us. Does all this make you glad inside?
Let us: Be grateful for all you have been gifted. Take a moment to acknowledge yourself for all the wonderful contributions you have given in your life. Take a moment to be grateful for this amazing planet we all live upon. Take time to be grateful for just this moment in your life as you sit shoulder to shoulder in this amazingly beautiful sanctuary among your friends, as well as, all the beautiful people here with you tonight. And lastly: Give yourself a big mental hug for all that you have given to others in so many ways.
Thank you and, and Good Shabbos, Miriam Jacobs
© 2001 Miriam Jacobs
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