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Life Lessons from the Book of Numbers

With thanks to Hashem, Jerusalem Lights is in the midst of several new projects, and greatly expanding its outreach of Torah for Everyone. We are currently preparing a book of Torah thoughts on the weekly portions for publication, and a major video production on a fascinating topic of Biblical archeology is nearing completion. We are also looking forward to beginning our new Zoom series on the Book of Job this coming Sunday, July 16! With so many concurrent projects, we were not able to produce a video lesson for this week’s Torah portion (we will be back next week, with G-d’s help!) but nevertheless I wanted to share a message for this Shabbat with you.

This week we conclude the book of Numbers with the reading of its last two portions, Matot and Masei. These two portions feature profound lessons: in unity; in the power of speech; in the path of redemption; in journeys and transformation; in Divine providence, and in purpose and destiny. And as we conclude the weekly readings in this fourth book of Torah, it’s a fitting time for us to look back on its timeless lessons. Much of this book has focused on the enigmatic Generation of the Desert, a generation at once pure and righteous, and at the same time, flawed and ultimately, failed, conveying to us a lesson that speaks directly to the existential angst and yearning for purpose within the contemporary human condition.

But as we conclude this book we recall that we have seen two generations: for the Generation of the Desert passes and makes way for the ones that we identify with the most…. the generation now standing at the desert crossroad, that is about to enter into the Land. In the tapestry of our existence, these portions remind us of the power and beauty of unity. Just as the Israelites journeyed together through the wilderness, we too traverse the vast landscape of our lives. We are bound by a shared destiny, intertwined as brothers and sisters on a profound pilgrimage. It is through recognizing our interconnectedness that we can mend the fragmented fabric of our world. Our world is plagued by division, but by extending a hand of compassion and empathy, we weave back the threads of universal brotherhood that have unraveled. Through acts of kindness and genuine concern for one another, we foster a harmonious symphony that reverberates with hope, transforming the existential angst we experience, into a shared purpose.

So open up your heart… The section of vows in the Torah portion of Matot teaches us about the power of speech. The act of making a vow involves expressing one's intentions or commitments through words. Just as G-d created the world through speech, our ability to speak reflects the Divine nature within us. The deepest secrets of Torah inform us that when we speak, our words have the potential to create, shape, and transform our reality. Our words have a profound impact not only on ourselves, but also on others and on the world around us. By understanding this power, we are encouraged to use our speech in a conscious and responsible manner. The secret lies in recognizing that our ability to speak is not merely an imitation of G-d, but rather a reflection of the Divine spark within us. We possess the power to create positive change and manifest our intentions through the words we choose. Just as G-d's words brought the world into existence, so too our words have the power to bring forth goodness, truth, and healing. However, it is crucial to remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Torah teaches that we must be mindful of the impact our words can have. Our speech should be used to uplift, inspire, and promote peace. By using our words wisely, we align ourselves with the Divine purpose, and contribute to the betterment of ourselves and others.

Looking back at the Book of Numbers, here is one of the major lessons we have learned: We often grapple with the weight of our mistakes and regrets, and at times we battle with inner demons that plague us with a sense of purposelessness. But the Generation of the Desert, who made so many mistakes, reminds us that despite our mistakes, Hashem guides our every step, and assures us that that the journey towards wholeness is possible. That wayward yet utterly righteous generation, brimming with potential yet utterly, ultimately failed, teaches us to embrace our imperfections, and focus on Hashem’s compassion and forgiveness; while at the same time urging us to take personal responsibility. In that spirit we continue along our own transformative odyssey of self-discovery, redeeming ourselves and doing our part towards fixing the world and bringing the Redemption. Shabbat Shalom!


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