My Torah portion is called Chukat. In it, it tells the story of Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites were walking in the desert for quite a long time, and the people panicked when they could not find water. The people complained bitterly about the lack of water, and they blamed Moses and Aaron for it. They blamed them for bringing them out to the desert, they blamed them for hunger and thirst, they blamed them for taking them out of Egypt, where they'd rather be slaves.
The pressure on Moses was intense, and Moses brought their complaints to God, not knowing what to do. God commanded Moses to talk to the rock, and the rock would give water to them and their animals. Moses came out of the Tent of Meeting and, in frustration, shouted at the people. "Listen now, O rebels, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?" Moses felt anger, saying this, and as panicked as the rest of the people. He felt cornered and filled with desperation as he struck the rock twice, and abundant water came out. The people's crisis was temporarily over, but Moses' was just beginning.
God said to Moses, "Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the land I have given them."
Moses already knew that the 600,000 people would not make it to the Promised Land, but their children would. And suddenly he realized, as God finished His sentence, that neither would he.
I was drawn like a magnet to the phrase "because you did not believe in Me" -- LO HE-EMANTEM BI The word HE-EMANTEM, which is "believe," also means to have faith or confidence. Moses had a problem here because he couldn't take the pressure and just fell apart. He couldn't think clearly, and, at that moment, lost confidence in God. As his anger, caused by the people, got stronger, his confidence in God, without him realizing, started to decrease.
I have had to learn to have confidence in myself. I think over problems a lot. If I really can't handle it, I'll turn to a really good friend or to my parents. But I like to solve my problems on my own. When I think of a solution, I plan it out and think about how I will say it and how other people will take it.
This kind of thinking clearly liberates you. When I was in fourth grade I couldn't think clearly. It was like I had a brick wall inside. I had lots of problems. But then in fifth grade I thought and thought and broke the brick wall. And my mind opened.
I think that Moses thought a lot, but he focused on getting to the Promised Land and on keeping God and the people satisfied. And he had a lot of trouble with all the pressure on him.
I can relate to Moses and him feeling too pressured to think clearly. For example, last year one day when I was in math class, I had to do this problem on the board, and the bell rang for lunch, and everyone was yelling at me and wouldn't let me concentrate. It's really hard for people to think and reason when under pressure or being yelled at, and sometimes they just need to be left alone for awhile. I had the same problem Moses had. The more they pressured me, the angrier I got and the less I could concentrate.
Maybe Moses needed a little time alone to think. Maybe if he thought a little more, things would have turned out differently. He could have thought about what God had promised and what had happened. He could have thought of a process: first the big thing, what the problem is, and then, at the other end, what the solution could be. And then he had to figure out the process of what he needed to do or say to arrive at the solution he had thought of. And then he could plan it out and think of what he would say and how other people and God would take it. He needed to take a deep breath and say,"I have a problem." He didn't want to see it as a problem which could be solved. He just said, "it is." Maybe he could have known more about how to convince the people to listen to him. He could have had really strong confidence. He could have given the people hope. He might not have given up so soon.
If you don't have time for thinking, then you don't have time for yourself. And if you don't have time for yourself, you don't love yourself. If you think a lot it opens your brain more, and it helps you in life.
My becoming Bat Mitzvah is thanks to all this thinking. Always when someone asked me "what religion are you?" I would answer, "Jewish and Christian," or, "I don't have one." And I got tired of having to explain that my dad is Christian and my mom Jewish. Then I asked all my friends what religion they were, and all of them said, "Catholic," And I was tired of hearing that. That's when I first considered being Jewish. Then I asked my parents about it. And after thinking for awhile I found out that I had the kind of relationship with God that Jewish people had. And that's when I started to get more into it.
We Jews have a more direct relationship with God. And we don't have a messenger or go out of our way to get through to God. Imagine someone standing between you and me, and I tell that person to say "hi" to you. And then that person tells you what I have said. Then you tell that person to say "hi" back, and that person tells me. It would be hard for us two to have a good relationship if it's not directly between us. You would feel more connected if it was direct.
I think most Jews have a direct relationship with God, like in Shabbat, imagine you are God, and all over the world people are thinking and talking to you, it's like receiving a bunch of letters in the mail at once, and all of us talking to God are connected by doing so.
When I decided I wanted to be Bat Mitzvah, I told my parents. And it led me to learning about the Torah, Hebrew and Jewish tradition. Thinking is good. I think all the time about everything, maybe even too much. Now, after thinking for thirteen years, I think that learning and school are really important. It is important to know enough, and it would be even better to know a little more then enough. But having information and thinking are two different things. The act of thinking means that you take time to plan things out and straighten your mind, and you should take as much time as it takes to know that your thoughts are clear and complete. And then you'll have confidence in yourself, and you'll be able to face pressure thanks to that confidence. It can lead you to be a better person and live a better life.
© Erica Piazza 2001
updated 07/02/2001 - rge
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