Last night with a panel of enlightened dignitaries at the “What’s Next? A Community Discussion on the Rise of Hate, Racism and Intolerance”, I opened with reflections on this week’s Torah reading.
The Torah reading is called B’Midbar, “in the wilderness”, and it is also what we call the Book of Numbers in Hebrew.
I recalled Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s story about his adventure in the wilds of Montana, and his concern upon seeing all the warnings about encountering bears. At a mountain store near the trailhead, Rabbi Kushner asked a seasoned guide: “How ’bout on that easy trail around the lake over there? Any chance of running into any bears this morning – so near to the store?”
Rabbi Kushner recalls the guide looking at him, considering the “question behind the question” and answering: “If I could tell you for sure there wouldn’t be any bears, it wouldn’t be a wilderness, now would it?”
We Jews are wilderness people. In our Torah we encounter hazard in the wilderness, and it is in the wilderness that we figure out how to cope with difficulty by encountering revelation and uniting as a community.
May our week be filled with the joining together that helps us overcome challenges.
May our community be a source of comfort and growth for us all.