There’s an old joke that says the reason the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years is that Moses wouldn’t stop to ask for directions! We, in fact, know that God’s reasons for taking the Israelites the long way is about giving them time to evolve away from the slave mentality of Egypt, and give them time to forge a new, national identity based on the law received at Sinai. The road to freedom has lots of twists and turns, many steps forward and, once in a while, a step back. It takes time to process our past as we carry it with us. Some memories we carry willingly. In this week’s Torah portion, B’shalach the Israelites carry the bones of Joseph out of Egypt to bury him, as promised, in the Land of Israel (Ex. 13:17-19). Some burdens of life we shoulder less willingly and they may always stay with us, but in time and with God’s help, we pray that they become easier to carry.
Although not in Torah, but from later in our tradition, next Sunday evening begins the holiday of Tu BiShvat. Traditionally the “new year” of trees for tithing, it has become a time to celebrate the environment and recall our sacred obligation to care for the world. Whether we use it as an opportunity to learn more about climate change, plant a tree, or renew our commitment to recycling, may doing something to acknowledge our responsibility for God’s created world be part of our celebrations.
Tu BiShvat Sameach,