The Challenge of the Future!

by Arliene Botnick, June 29, 2022

We are now almost at the conclusion the fourth book of Torah, Numbers (Bemidbar). By August, we will be beginning the fifth book of Torah, Deuteronomy, which in Hebrew is Devarim – words. It is basically a recap of the first four books, as Moses recounts to the people what they had experienced and what lies in store for them. He will learn that it will not be he who leads them into the promised land. As well, a whole generation of Israelites will also not enter the land. They lacked faith in the future promised them. when the 12 scouts had returned from reconnoitring the land, only two, Joshua and Caleb, were willing and were confident enough in themselves and in God to say to Moses that they could do what God had commanded. Those who had been slaves were yet not prepared for freedom. Those who had been slaves, even after 40 years in the desert, did not fully understand or even perhaps have confidence in the God whom they could not see.

In Deuteronomy, Moses pleads with God to allow him to enter the land but it is not be, and Moses will die on Mount Nebo (to be buried by God). With his last words, Moses will continue to warn our people not to fall back into the worshipping of idols and he will remind them of the brit (the covenant with God). He will remind our ancestors of the mitzvot, the commandments. And then, in Deuteronomy 6:4, Moses recites the Sh’ma, and we are forever commanded to recite those very same words when we lie down, and when we rise up. We are to inscribe them on the doorposts of our house and we are to teach them diligently to our children: Hear, O Israel! The Eternal is our God, the Eternal alone. You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. Those words would guide and sustain our ancestors into their future. Those words would direct our ancestors into this new land, and always remind them of the covenant they formed with God at Sinai.

The future for all of us is at times frightening, enticing, exciting and always unknowable. And as I look at our world today and our community, I believe that we all have to remember the power of those words given our ancestors some 3200 years ago. What we have experienced in the past 2 1/2 years with Covid, with the increase of hate crimes, with a war in the Ukraine, with the human rights that we all thought sacrosanct being removed, like the right of a woman to decide what to do with her own body, makes all of us fearful of the future ahead of us. But fearful doesn’t work. The scouts who were fearful and the people who agreed with them were denied the future in the Promised Land. Caleb and Joshua had faith and it was Joshua and the young generation who let us into the promised land.

Faith in God does not make the world perfect, but it does give us the strength to deal with the world’s challenges. So as we read the devarim, the words of Moses, we are reminded of the ordeals our ancestors endured as slaves in Egypt, as wanderers in the desert for 40 years, often starving for food, receiving nourishment from God with manna. We understand that life is never easy, but as long as we have the will to continue and faith in God and God‘s commandments, we will continue as a Jewish people. We can accept our responsibilities, meet challenges and make this a better world. Torah is our blueprint!

When we complete the reading of Deuteronomy, we don’t stop. On Simchat Torah, we will scroll back to Genesis again and we will begin to read that there was chaos and God gave us order, and there was fratricide and there was punishment and there was freedom and there was enslavement and there was the brit and the Shma. Each time we read, we are reminded of the words that Moses repeated to our ancestors. We have to be comforted by the belief that God is one and that we are to love God with all our heart and soul and might.

As God is our partner, we have to be God’s partner. The challenge of the future is before us. How will we meet that challenge? Are we like Caleb and Joshua, or like those who had lost their faith and were fearful? Tikkun olam – mending the world… The future will be better; it can be better; we must do our utmost to make it better. As Rabbi Tarfon said: “ It is not your responsibility to finish perfecting the world, yet you are not free to desist from it either” A lot of work lies ahead for us all as we confront the challenge of the future !

Have a wonderful summer everyone

Filed under: Educator's Message

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