Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Vayera

Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Vayera

This week’s parshah, Vayera, contains powerful concepts, not just for the ancient world but for our modern one.  We hear of strangers visiting Abraham and Sarah, and we suspect they’re angels.  Today, we often encounter people and are left with the impression they are more than they appear.  We glimpse the infinite depth that lies within each person.  Later in the parshah, Abraham argues with God about Sodom and creates a new moral dialogue.  His argument sets our understanding of how righteousness must be weighed and valued more than is evil – 10 righteous people can carry a region of thousands.  God agrees.  We also read of a desperate moment with Lot and his daughters that begins the lineage that will give us the Messiah.  We remember that sometimes the darkness of the moment can blind us to the redemption of the next moment.

   Yet, with all these tremendous perspectives, we usually focus on one element of the parshah, the binding of Isaac.  It is one of the most challenging and difficult texts we read, and we have yet to explain it in a way that sits comfortably in our hearts.  But because it disturbs us, we focus there and don’t value the positive messages in the rest of the parshah.

Sometimes in our daily lives, we experience things the same way we read this parshah.  Each day is filled with beautiful and powerful nuanced moments that positively impact how we think and feel, yet we will focus on something that disturbed us.  

  We protect ourselves by seeing what is negative, but we also deprive ourselves of seeing the positive growth in each day.  This week’s parshah invites us to broaden our views, seek the positive moments and value the change in perspectives they bring.

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.

Shabbat shalom,

Rachael

Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Lech Lecha

This week, we meet Judaism’s visionaries: Abraham and Sarah.  God reaches out with an invitation to take a journey: lech lecha.  It’s a Hebrew phrase that is often difficult to translate.  The first word, lech, is the command ‘go’, which we immediately recognize.  However, the second word, lecha, is out of place in this phrase.  Lecha means ‘for you’, which has generated many commentaries on how this journey will benefit them, it is a journey ‘for you’.  

But the word lecha doesn’t only mean ‘for you’, it also means ‘to you’.

It now suggests that the journey of covenant, and Judaism, is a journey of self-discovery.  At the end of the road we travel, we are to meet our true selves.  Lech lecha now translates as ‘go toward yourself’.   

For the first three generations of our ancestry, our Matriarchs and Patriarchs each embark on their own lech lecha journey that takes them to different Jewish realities.  Each of their journeys is unique.  Once Jacob, our last ancestor, lies on his deathbed, he passes it to his descendants as an inherited legacy.

Each Jewish person inherits the invitation.  Lech lecha, walk a path of unknown discoveries filled with challenges and surprises.  It is never guaranteed to be only good, but it is always guaranteed to feel right when you find your unique lech lecha path.

We sometimes make a life decision that can shape the years ahead, but the life journey of lech lecha sets our feet on a path that began long before us, and will extend far beyond us.  The future imagined by Abraham and Sarah, and the vision they bring to the world, is only surpassed by the courage of this moment as they answer God and take a first step.

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.

Shabbat shalom,

Rachael

Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Noah

Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Noah

It takes ten generations for the world to move from Adam to Noah, ten generations to go from creation to destruction. Yet, ten generations after Noah, we will read of Abraham. Throughout the ages, Jewish commentaries have compared Noah and Abraham, as they represent such different portraits of a hero.

Noah, knowing the world will be destroyed, doesn’t argue with God – he simply obeys.  Abraham, being told a region of Sodom will be destroyed, mounts a moral argument with God about sweeping judgments.  It seems that Abraham is the model of a hero, yet Noah and Abraham are both described with the same word: ‘Tzadik’.

The Sages tell us that a righteous person, a ‘tzadik’, is someone who stands firm in their morals, no matter what is going on around them.  In other words, a hero is defined by context.  Noah is righteous because he doesn’t have blood on his hands.  He doesn’t actively save people, but he doesn’t actively kill them, which was the cultural norm of his time.  He is righteous because he is blameless.  Abraham is righteous because he moves beyond being blameless and speaks for the potential victim.  His argument with God is not for those who are suffering, it is for those who will suffer in the future.  In this regard, both Noah and Abraham stand side by side in their righteousness – they both take their cultural norms one step further.

When we think of Torah in our lives, we do not think of it as standing far from us and our culture.  On the contrary, we contextualize Torah into our lives and have it strengthen us to take even one step forward.  A hero could be someone who stays calm when others are lashing out, or someone who sees the outcome of suffering and tries to intervene before it starts, or someone who gives their time to support someone in a culture where every minute is accounted for and scheduled.  

Noah and Abraham, so distinctly different, both show us there are heroes among us all the time, we just need to understand that subtle gestures can also be heroic.

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.

Shabbat shalom,

Rachael

Rachael’s Thoughts on parashat Bereishit

Rachael’s Thoughts on parashat Bereishit

We have danced, celebrated, fasted, and prayed for weeks, as we entered the High Holidays, moved through them, and now truly begin our Jewish new year.  This Shabbat, we begin reading the Torah again with the first chapters of Genesis, parashat Bereishit.

           We read of the beginnings of the universe, the world as we know it, and the human condition.  Einstein believed that the universe is not a defined, static thing, but that it continues to expand.  Our Sages taught us that creation renews itself every day, and that the creative elements God embedded into the universe will always renew.  Our worlds of science and faith are both telling us that nothing around us stands still – everything moves toward growth and expansion.

           With that in mind, we do not read the book of Genesis again, we read it anew.  It has new things to tell us, unique perspectives we haven’t heard before.  The entire Torah begins with the word ‘Bereishit’ – ‘in the beginning’.  It begins with the letter ‘b’ (bet), the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Our commentaries point out that it would be more appropriate to begin the Torah with the first letter, ‘a’ (aleph).  One reason is to show that there is always something more to know, something that pre-exists, something connected with ‘a’ (aleph) that is hidden and inviting us to explore.  But the Torah must begin with the second letter because we know we are entering a process that is already moving forward.

           Though we are careful  not to read Torah searching for endings – we engage with Torah as we search for beginnings.  Each person finds their unique starting place, knowing there is so much that exists before them – before anything they recognize.  The goal is not to unlock a mystery of the past, it is to courageously step in and enter the expansion.

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.

Shabbat shalom,

Rachael

Taking A Break

Taking A Break

I recently accepted a position as Rabbanit at a synagogue in Toronto, the Beth Torah Congregation.  I am very honoured with this position, as my parents were among the founding members of this shul.  In light of my new community position, and with all the exciting new courses being offered this fall at Rachael’s Centre, I will be taking a break from writing my weekly blog.  

I want to personally wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat, and meaningful weeks leading up to our High Holidays.

Shabbat shalom u-mevorach,

Rachael

This week’s parsha is Va’etchanan.

Read or revisit Rachael’s previous blogs on this parsha:

Parshat Va’etchanan: If I Could Walk In Your Shoes I’d Have Bigger Feet

Parshat Va’etchanan: Learning To Listen

Being the Tooth Fairy Was Easy

Being the Tooth Fairy Was Easy

When I was little, I believed in the Tooth Fairy.  Whenever I would lose a tooth, I would put it under my pillow, and in the morning I knew that one of my parents took the tooth and placed a nickel in its place.  I knew they wanted me to think it was the Tooth Fairy, and so I decided to play along and make them happy.  We all ‘believed’ in the Tooth Fairy and were quite happy to live the fantasy.  A few times, I woke up in the morning. and my tooth was still under my pillow. I made sure to mention to my parents that the Tooth Fairy hadn’t come (read: ‘I thought you were good parents but I believe I’m down a nickel…).  

No one is really sure how the Tooth Fairy started, but some theories track it as early as the 1200s, when Norwegian soldiers bought children’s teeth to wear around their necks for good luck in battle (not quite my image of a ‘tooth fairy’ but then no one made me look it up so I have only myself to blame).

When my kids started losing their teeth, I most definitely told them to put the tooth under their pillow for the Tooth Fairy.  The first few times I was shocked to hear from friends that you had to put a quarter for each tooth (gone were the good old nickel-per-tooth days).  By the time we were at the fifth child, each tooth cost us a loonie (a Canadian $1 coin) – tooth inflation is shocking!

I never considered not being the Tooth Fairy.  The guilt, the blame, the parental insecurity would have cut me to the core.  Wasn’t a piece of my child worth the $1?  Once, I remember trying to get the tooth out from under my kid’s pillow when they opened their eyes and looked at me, as my face was millimeters away from theirs.  I froze.  I told them I was just coming to say ‘I love you’ – we smiled at each other and they went back to sleep while I went to shower the cold sweat off me.

Yet, with all that said, I do remember that by the end of it all, my youngest child would ask me if the Tooth Fairy had remembered to get some cash that day. She would then hand me her tooth and I would hand her the loonie.  I appreciated that she indulged my Tooth Fairy secret identity. 

Pretending to believe in things we don’t actually believe in is a tricky thing.  

Needless to say, it is a crucial question within our Jewish lives and it becomes very central today, as we approach Tisha B’Av – the 9th day of the month of Av – a day that marks Jewish historical disasters throughout time.  The decree that ancient Israelites should stay in the desert for 40 years occurred on Tisha B’Av.  Both ancient Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this day and Jerusalem was lost as a 2000 year exile began.  

Throughout Jewish history, we move all our sadness and tragic memories to Tisha B’Av.  The same Sages who tell us to express our Judaism through happiness also tell us to focus all the negativity of our history onto one specific day. It is a brilliant way to frame a troubled history that could result in a depressive culture.  To ensure that a difficult history does not define our perspective, we are told that for 364 days of the year we must find our joy, and for 1 day we express our tragedies. 

The problem with believing in something is when we are told that all our suffering is because we didn’t have enough faith in God – we didn’t believe enough.  According to this view, all our suffering is the punishment we have brought upon ourselves, and therefore the answer is to repent and strengthen our belief.

The problem is we are never commanded to believe in the first place.  Commandments speak to the consistency of our behaviours while our beliefs are expected to wax and wane.  Yes, Judaism is a religion, and we could easily conclude that everything sits in our faith, but Judaism is far more layered than that.  The Talmud tells us that we lost the Temples because of ‘baseless hatred’ – a general animosity we felt towards other people for no valid reason.  We weren’t punished because of it, we sabotaged ourselves.  I cannot build a family, a community, or a society, if I see no value in anyone around me.  Losing everything that mattered to us wasn’t the punishment, it was the inevitable outcome.

Rav Kook, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, once expressed that the answer to baseless hatred is baseless love.  If I am able to reach out to someone and create a positive moment, we are then actively pushing against baseless hatred.  If one community offers allyship to a vulnerable group, we are building baseless love.  We know that the world before us will not be the same as the world of 18 months ago.  The world before us can become a world where we actively push away from Tisha B’Av – where we choose the strength of love and bond.

On Tisha B’Av, we read the book of Lamentations.  The first word in the book is ‘Eichah’, which means ‘how’ – how did such a catastrophe occur?  It does not begin by asking ‘why’, which would be a question of faith, rather it asks ‘how’, which is a question of accountability.

True belief is never a game we pretend to play, and we are not punished for our journeys of faith.  While the ancient prophet Jeremiah asked the question of how things could collapse so fully, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves how we can build things anew so beautifully.

Parshat Matot-Masei: Try Your Best – Then Pray for Luck

Parshat Matot-Masei: Try Your Best – Then Pray for Luck

We live in a world that floods us with information and perspectives, making it possible for us to prepare ourselves for almost anything.  I remember planning my schedule around unknown driving times, hoping traffic would be on my side so I wouldn’t be late for anything and trigger a cascade of lateness for the rest of my day. GPS technology appeared, and it quickly moved from providing me with maps to providing me with real-time traffic updates.  My phone’s GPS now lets me know when to leave my house and arrive at my destination on time in the future, just by inputting the date and time I plan to drive.  If there should be a sudden mishap on the road, my GPS will reroute me around it to fulfill the singular purpose of getting me there on time.  Luck has been taken out of the equation.

A few years ago I was talking to a woman who lives in Alaska and she told me a friend of hers had a car with GPS.  She said it was cute but useless.  I asked her why it was useless (thinking it might be a signal problem) and she told me that most of the year the roads are buried under snow and ice so what difference does it make if the GPS tells you which road to take.  She said that starting in grade school they’re taught how to survive in sudden bad weather and then hope that luck is on their side.  In her world, technology is cute but training and luck carry the day.

The very notion of luck implies that success or failure are determined by some outside force, usually random.  It seems to be a concept foreign to Judaism, where things in our lives speak of our intentions as filtered through our actions.  In fact, the way we use the word luck in English has no counterpart in Hebrew.  Rather than wishing someone good luck, in Hebrew we would say ‘behatzlacha’, which means ‘with success’.  It is a statement of outcome, unlike luck, which is a statement of process.

So, what do we do with a Jewish calendar that implies that some months are lucky and some months are not?  The Talmud tells us that the month of Adar is a lucky month for the Jewish people.  It is the month when we celebrate Purim, and although Haman drew lots to decide when to attack the Jews, the lot came out on our lucky month, so we were advantaged at a time when we faced a planned genocide.  According to our understanding, God’s protection was hidden in the fact that the lottery resulted in Adar.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true for the month of Av.  It is considered to be the unlucky month for the Jewish people.  It is the month of the destruction of our ancient Temples, the month of expulsions, the month in which Aaron died, the month when things align negatively.  

This Shabbat is when we mark the beginning of the month of Av.

Where are these ideas of luck coming from?  In this week’s Torah reading, parshat Matot-Masei, the people are told how to allocate portions of land to the tribes once they all enter Israel.  First, everyone is told that land portions should be designated by the size of each tribe — larger tribes get more land.  Interestingly, the Torah then says that each tribe will receive its land allocation by drawing lots.  The commentaries immediately question which one it is.  A rational reckoning would say tribal size corresponds with land size.  Conducting lots would say that it’s the luck of the draw, so everyone has equal opportunities to a windfall. 

I view it as a beautiful way to remind us that while we try to approach everything around us with cold, rational logic, we should always be humble enough to accept that some things lie beyond us.  The Zohar tells us that everything depends on a bit of luck from above.  In fact, the word ‘mazel’ (as in Mazel Tov) means ‘drippings from above’.  The Sages told us that God wove inclinations into the fibers of creation.  Some months will incline toward the positive while others will not.  

We also know that each month in the Jewish calendar has an animal paired to it.  The month of Av has a lion — it represents the predatory aspects of a lion and its ability to destroy.  But we also know that the lion is the animal connected with the ancient tribe of Judah.  There it represents strong leadership and ultimate redemption.  Things in creation may incline a certain way, but the world is a dynamic place of opportunity and change.  The two lions have opportunities to engage, and it can make us stronger.

As Av begins, and we read of land assignments and lotteries in the Torah, we remind ourselves that for a few weeks we plant our feet strongly on the ground and search for the opportunities to improve what we see around us.  With a bit of luck on our side, negatives can become positives.

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Parshat Pinchas: Learning to Build a Legacy

Parshat Pinchas: Learning to Build a Legacy

Over the last year, my mother has been texting me some of her recipes so that I could make them in my own home.  Sometimes it worked well, but often, although it tasted fine, it just didn’t taste like it does when she makes it.  I think the problem lies in how I define “a smidge” or “a pinch” or “fill the palm of your hand with pepper”, versus my mother’s definition of these measures.  I’ve learned to accept that I can’t duplicate these dishes, I can only personalize them and carry on.

But every now and then, when I’m able to speak with my aunt (my mother’s sister who lives in Israel), I manage to get actual measurements for things.  She is the keeper of the family flavours — the problem is she learned these recipes from her mother, and neither of these women were speaking English to each other.  In fact, although they lived in Israel, these recipes weren’t exactly in Hebrew either.  They’re in some old-world mix of Hebrew, Arabic, French, and Ladino.  I end up with descriptions of the ingredients, rather than the actual names of them.  In the end, I get measurements from my aunt, but I have no idea what ingredient I’m supposed to be measuring.  In essence, I play Russian Roulette with the traditional family recipes.  However, I did notice that anytime I asked my aunt about when she and my mother were growing up, she would tell me to ask my mother about details and names because she never remembers them.

Somewhere between my mother and my aunt lies the full memory of that side of the family.  Each is the expert of a corner of the legacy I’m searching for. 

I can’t help but think of another woman who harboured a priceless legacy, and she appears in the Torah reading this week, parshat Pinchas.  Our Jewish heritage teaches us that when the Israelites left Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 40 years, during which time the slave generation died out.  Miriam, Aaron, and ultimately Moses, don’t enter Israel, as they were from the generation of Egypt.  Yet, surprisingly, the Torah tells us that one woman, Serach, who left Egypt as a slave, will be among those who enter Israel.  We see her name listed in the parsha during a census.  Amidst all the names of men appears the name of only one woman, Asher’s daughter Serach.

The Torah never explains why this woman’s name is listed in the census, and we are never told of anything she did.  The only thing we notice is that her name is listed among those who entered Egypt, it appears here in the census, and it will be listed later among those who enter Israel.  What do we know of this unusual woman?

Some of our sources speak of her position as the embodiment of our memories.  She is the woman who knew us when we were a clan in Canaan, and then knew our pain and torment in Egypt.  She is the woman who witnessed the leadership of Moses and the challenges of the people.  She is the same woman who watches all her peers perish as she educates the next generation about their roots and their anchors.  

She is our living legacy.

Serach is how the Torah teaches us that our history sits within the people first.  It is their voices that will speak of our experiences and will create a history we can trust.  She observes it all, records it all, and teaches it all.  I can’t help but think of the year and a half we’ve all just been through and how we will choose to record it.

Aside from the changes to our daily lives and our relationships, there have been challenges to our Jewish experiences.  Did we maintain holiness to our holidays and our Shabbat experiences when we couldn’t gather together?  Were our Jewish moments still special when we couldn’t sit with our families?  Did we pray? Did we find ways to seek community?  Were we able to reach out and help those who needed our helping hands?  Did our Jewish values guide us through dark moments or were they sitting silently as we struggled?

Added to all these questions is the question this week’s parsha adds: will we chronicle our experience in all its positive and negative aspects, or are we eager to forget it and move on?

Everyone of us has endured a difficult year, and each of our experiences are different.  Judaism always teaches us to study the texts we’ve inherited and create new texts as we move forward.  All of us had private moments of sadness, but we also had surprising moments of appreciation and gratitude.  As we are able to move beyond the experience, we must decide if the year becomes a memory or a legacy.  A memory will sit inside of us and it will speak to us every now and again as a ‘remember when’ moment.  A legacy is something that sits on the experience in all its facets and emerges with the lessons learned.  A legacy moves beyond us and becomes an inheritance. 

Parshat Balak: But Did You Really Mean It?

Parshat Balak: But Did You Really Mean It?

Someone I hadn’t spoken with in years called me the other day.   When I answered the phone, she immediately greeted me warmly and said her name.  I was thrilled to hear from her — it had been so long.  I excitedly asked her how she was and how her family had been over the past few years.  She told me they were all well and asked me about my kids, each by name, and how they are.  As I was answering, in the back of my mind, I began to wonder at this voice from the past reaching out to me. 

I met this woman years before when I walked into a salon at the shopping mall near my house.  I wanted to cut my hair and she had some time available.  We talked and she shared her story of leaving Iran and her former life behind.  We’d see each other every month or so, and each time we shared stories of our families and our lives.  Eventually, she invited me to her home and we began a friendship.  But over the years our lives got busier, and we saw each other less and less.  When she called me a few days ago,  I instantly smiled and was excited to catch up with her.

As soon as we finished the general updates, she told me that the salon would be opening to clients again in a few weeks and I should feel free to make an appointment.  The province is going to allow in-person appointments indoors, but I would need to book an appointment, since they weren’t taking walk-ins.  I thanked her for letting me know, told her I really appreciated her thinking of me, and I proceeded to ask her more questions about what she’s been doing.  She indicated she needed to get off the phone and I realized she was probably making many calls to many former clients to try and rebuild her income. I thanked her again and we hung up.

Since then I’ve been thinking about that phone call.  I misunderstood her intentions.  I thought the phone call was a sudden and courageous reach-out, to connect with me because we’d lost touch with each other.  In fact, it was a formal and economically practical means to try and recover from a difficult year.  Salons have been closed for months, and anyone in that industry must now rebuild.

I couldn’t decide if I was hurt or not.

It reminded me of an interesting dilemma that presents itself in this week’s Torah reading, parshat Balak.  A foreign prophet, Balaam, is hired to curse Israel, and although he tries several times to fulfill the job, he fails each time.  In fact, every time he tries, his words are turned into blessings.  The final blessing, ‘Ma tovu’, becomes the opening prayer of our Siddur — it is the blessing that says ‘How wonderful are your tents’.  It is a beautiful blessing that speaks of our community, our respect for each other and our inclusion of God into our society.  But, Balaam clearly intended to curse us, do we ignore his intent?

Yes, we do.  Judaism tells us to couple our intention with our actions, but only I can form my intention, and only I will know how authentic it is.  I cannot judge another person’s intentions, since I could never truly know them.  I am to work on my own intentions, but I can only ever observe the actions of others — their intentions are private, and I must respect that privacy.

The old friend who called me may have intended to rebuild her client base, or perhaps she coupled that with the opportunity to reach out to an old friend — I’ll never know.  But the truth is that her call made me smile, and I felt excitement at hearing the voice from the past.  Whether she meant to or not, she made me feel better and I’m grateful to her.

True intentions can only sit inside our own hearts.  For more than a year, we’ve had to limit our contact with each other, and now that we are more able to connect, maybe it’s worth picking up the phone and calling an old friend.  We may leave them wondering what led us to make that phone call, but wondering about it won’t last as long as the smile will.

Parshat Chukat: But It Was Only a Rock!

Parshat Chukat: But It Was Only a Rock!

Over the past 15 months, I have begun talking to the television more and more — I never used to talk to the television.  I always found it amusing when I heard other people warn the characters in a movie not to go into the basement because the killer is hiding there.  But now, I can honestly say that my view of how I watch television has changed.  In fact, I’ve noticed that all the time spent watching our devices these days has resulted in many changes in how people interact with what they see on their screens.

While I have begun to interact with the television screen as if the people I’m seeing are actually on Zoom, and therefore I can speak to them, I’ve noticed the opposite has happened to other people.  Some of my colleagues have mentioned that when they teach on Zoom, their students sit back in their chairs and watch the class, expecting it to unfold the way a television show would unfold.  There is less interaction, less conversation, almost no dialogue.  The students are watching their computer screens the same way they are watching their television screens, and the expectations have transferred.  

I am guilty of the opposite.  Since I teach often on Zoom, I have developed the habit of talking to any screen I see.  I have become that person who warns the characters in the movie not to go to the basement (though you have to wonder about a script where none of these characters don’t seem to know not to go to the basement…but I digress).

It raises the question of how, and why, we would consider talking to an inanimate object at all.  Yet, many times we do.  If our car won’t start, we try to persuade it with our words.  On some level, we build relationships with the material things around us.  But we will always view them as objects, and so we do not judge if someone is rude to their computer, or perhaps strikes a rock in their garden.

Which can only raise the question of the incident in this week’s Torah reading, parshat Chukat, when Moses is told by God to speak to a rock and bring water for the people, but instead, Moses hits the rock.  As a result, God tells Moses he will never enter Israel, and we all wonder how the consequences could possibly fit the action — it was only a rock!

While we are bewildered at the imbalance of it, the midrash introduces an entirely new nuance to us.  This was no ordinary rock.  According to the midrash, the entire time we’re in the desert, there’s a well providing water for us.  This was Miriam’s Well, and it was a gift to Israel that was based on the merit of Miriam.  Wherever Israel travelled, the rock was carried with them.  When Israel camped, the rock was placed in the centre of the encampment and all the tribal leaders came to the rock, staff in hand.  Together, each leader drew a line in the sand with their staff from the rock to their tribe’s camp.  Once all the lines were drawn, water flowed from the rock into the lines, and irrigated the camp.  Miriam’s Well sustained everyone in the desert.  Her lifelong bond with water was embodied in the rock that manifested her guardianship.

But then Miriam died, the water stopped, and all of Israel complained to Moses.  The rock won’t release the water without her.  God tells Moses to speak to the rock and show Israel that the material world around them can be elevated to holiness.  Moses was to model the potential that exists when we elevate the mundane to the holy.

Unfortunately, Moses repeated a pattern he learned in Egypt.  When he first saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave, he killed the Egyptian.  But, being raised in Pharaoh’s palace afforded Moses the authority to command the Egyptian to stop, yet he responded with violence.  When Moses breaks the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, he is again resorting to a moment of violence, and now, standing by the rock with all the people getting impatient and angry, Moses, again, chooses an expression of power over an expression of conciliation.  

Moses’ upbringing as an Egyptian prince makes him the perfect leader for the Israelite slaves, but those same attributes make him the wrong leader for their children.  If Moses leads the next generation into Israel, they will never leave Egypt behind.  They will never see that expressing power is not always the only choice.

Judaism teaches us that the objects in our world are there to fulfill our needs, but they also show us we can elevate some moments of interaction beyond the physical..  When I talk to my television, warning fictional characters of unseen dangers, I have not actually accomplished anything.  But if I view talking to the television as my way of creating a comfort level with screen interaction, opening myself to interacting with others while on Zoom, rather than remaining the silent observer, then I am learning to use the objects around me to elevate the moment.