7/19/2012

Shabbat Matot and Massey

Begins Friday July 20th at 8.03pm. 
Ends July 21st at 9.05 pm.
Friday 20th is Rosh Chodesh Av.
The Fast of Tisha B’Av starts next Saturday night 28th.

This week we have a double Sedra and with them we conclude the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar.

The Book of Bamidbar is a kind of metaphor for the Jewish people. Everything starts out well, full of optimism. Yet circumstances, divisions within and challenges from without pull us down and we fail to fulfill our potential. Yet whenever things look their blackest, the seeds are sown of revival and survival. That happens in this book of Bamidbar. Everything is planned in the second year of the Exodus for a triumphant march into Canaan. But then the divisions, the internal conflicts lead to a retreat and a delay of forty years. The Book is overwhelmingly about the build-up to invasion but then towards the end from Balak onwards it is concerned with the final assault forty years later all squeezed into a few chapters.

The two parts that end the book, we read this week, are called ‘Matot’ after the tribes who dominate the early history of the Israelites and ‘Massey,’ the journeys they made from Egypt before they reached home.

And these names too are also a metaphor. We travel. Sometimes we are exiled and sometimes we escape but our history is full of migrations. And what keeps us identified as Jews as we move from place to place? It is the determination of our tribes, those strong families amongst us that ensure that no matter where we travel, our religious tradition remains alive. That’s how we turn disaster into triumph.