Isn’t it great when we can learn lessons from Torah that relate to what we are living today? This is from Rabbi Danny Burkeman, the senior rabbi at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, Maine, in an article titled “Entering the Wilderness after COVID-19!”
We are leaving Egypt, and that is never easy.
When we reflect on the biblical narrative, we think about Mitzrayim — Egypt — as the geographic location in the Middle East, the place where we were slaves, a place where our ancestors suffered and were persecuted. And Mitzrayim is also a symbolic narrow place (from the Hebrew word metzer — narrow). Mitzrayim is a place of pain and suffering. It is a time of enslavement and loss of control. It is any period of loss. The last 13 months have been a personal, communal and global Mitzrayim as we have suffered under the weight of COVID-19.
And now, just like our ancestors before us, we are finally leaving Mitzrayim. But we do not immediately arrive at the Promised Land. Instead, just like them, we are entering into the wilderness. The wilderness is characterized by uncertainty and doubt. We do not know how long we will be here; we do not know what exactly to expect: We do not know what tools we will need to navigate through the journey.
Rabbi Burkeman reminds us from this story about the Israelites complaining and saying it would have been better if they had not left Egypt. Yes, like our ancestors we have entered the “wilderness of partially vaccinated times,” but we have not yet reached the Promised Land. These past months have been challenging, more for some than for others, but for the most part, we knew what the rules and restrictions were, just as the Israelites knew about the hardships of slavery, they knew what to do to survive.
We are now in this new phase of some, but not all, vaccinated and what does that even mean? Masks, no masks? Hugging, no hugging?? Get-togethers…but with whom? This wilderness is difficult to maneuver and we look to leaders for guidance. Where is Moses when we need him? But remember, Moses didn’t do it alone, and Moses got frustrated and the people kept complaining. We must each take on a leadership role.
Rabbi Burkeman ends with this: What we know is that the Israelites ultimately reached the Promised Land. Their journey through the wilderness prepared them for what lay ahead. It was not always easy, the journey was not smooth or quick, and there were moments of tension and opposition. But they found ways to support one another, they overcame all of the challenges that were placed before them, and they made it to the Promised Land together. Just as we followed their example in leaving Egypt, we can also follow their example to make it through the wilderness and reach a Promised Land that we will create together.
So let’s eat our manna and keep on moving!! And we know what happens when we reach the Promised Land — yes, challenges are still with us because that is life. Yet because we are in this together, we will remember and keep telling our stories to remind us that the promise is ours to keep.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.