A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Torah portion is a welcome reminder to reflect on the journey of the past year


Amid this week’s double parashah, Matot-Massei, there are 49 verses, a lot of detail, describing the 42 journeys of the Jewish people through the desert, to the Land of Israel. It is almost like reading the journal of an explorer, with specific details about departure points, encampments, and destinations. In this moment it seems that it is not about Egypt or even about reaching the Promised Land, but rather about the journey, itself, the day-to-day details, and moments experienced.  

From the moment that God said to Abraham, “Lech Lecha, Go forth from … to a place that I will show you,” journeying and journeys have been a central theme for our people, as our people have been journeying from land to land, from exile to exile, from experience to experience for thousands of years.

Rabbi Benjy Levy teaches, “when travelling long distances, people tend to look up towards the horizon; and the trouble with the horizon is that when you finally think you are about to reach it; you discover that it is even further away. And you start trying to reach it all over again.”  

I know that we are in the midst of the summer, and it feels like we have miles and miles to go before this summer long journey is done, but I cannot help but recognize that we have less than three months to Rosh Hashanah and the start of a new year.    

Perhaps this week’s parashah is speaking, calling out to us in this moment to stop and take stock of the journey we’re currently on before we reach the horizon of another year. Have we done what we set out to do? Have we reached destinations we meant to reach or are we stuck, feeling unable to move from where we are? If so, that’s OK, as this section of the Torah reminds us that journeys are never perfect, never easy, and often filled with bumps, mishaps, unimagined obstacles, frustration, tears, and sometimes even the desire to quit and forget all about the journey. 

The Israelites were supposed to leave Egypt, make it to Sinai, receive the Torah, and shortly thereafter enter the Promised Land. But things happened — some within their control and some out of their control, and their journey lasted much longer than anyone imagined. Yet, amid their journey incredible things happened, and these parashiot remind us that often, it isn’t about the destination or the end point, but rather about the journey itself. It is about the moments and the experiences from beginning to end, because it is in these moments that growth and blessings happen. It is in these moments when we learn just how strong and resilient, we really are.

I know we’re in the middle of summer and it seems crazy to think of a new year on the horizon but take a moment this Shabbat — to reflect on your journey of this past year. I bet you will find some beautiful moments and blessings sprinkled amidst those moments of sadness and maybe feeling stuck. We, Jews, know long journeys, and because of them, we are a strong and resilient people, who always seem to find beautiful moments and blessings amid crazy and chaos.

When we find ourselves on a journey, our tradition offers us Tefillat HaDerech, the Traveler’s prayer.   

May it be Your will, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace.

On this Shabbat let us remember that we are not alone, that we journey together under the sheltering presence of G-d. May the gifts of shalom/peace and shalem/wholeness help us find the strength and resilience to journey on and make the most of this summer and this year! 

Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

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