It has now been over a year since we first stood at Sinai but now we are ready to commence our journey. Leaving Egypt was easy; keeping together and going forward is more of a challenge. The future contains the fear of the unknown and there came a time when the people complained and asked to go back. That was never an option. At Sinai we were a camp, a “macheneh”, but now we had to embrace the idea of being an “edeh”, a community.
People come together either for protection against an enemy or oppression. They may also come together with a sense of discontent or, seeking an ideal, a sense of purpose. What is required is guidance and even the best of leaders can have their patience exhausted. In the Sedra today both God and Moses are exasperated. We read
וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֤ף יְהֹוָה֙ מְאֹ֔ד וּבְעֵינֵ֥י משֶׁ֖ה רָֽע:
The Lord became very angry, and Moses considered it evil
Moses calls out
לֹֽא־אוּכַ֤ל אָֽנֹכִי֙ לְבַדִּ֔י לָשֵׂ֖את אֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֥י כָבֵ֖ד מִמֶּֽנִּי
Alone I cannot carry this entire people for it is too hard for me
What should have been a relatively short journey would stretch out over forty years because of our continuing intransigence. The question arises; what guidance was on offer for the journey?
We had the cloud over the Mishkan and the silver trumpets to call us. We still hear those sounds on the Yamin Noraim; the Tekiah, a call to assemble and the Teruah a call to travel. (Interestingly, Shevarim is not mentioned, it was to sound a warning).
We also had something that we still hear to this day. Within the Parasha is a mystery; verses 35 and 36 isolated by a unique symbol, the “nun hakuffah”, the inverted Hebrew letter “nun. These verses, sometimes described as the “song of the ark” are what we sing when the Torah is taken out. In verse 35 we read
Va ye hi bin soah ha’aron
ַיְהִ֛י בִּנְסֹ֥עַ הָֽאָרֹ֖ן וַיֹּ֣אמֶר משֶׁ֑ה קוּמָ֣ה | יְהֹוָ֗ה וְיָפֻ֨צוּ֙ אֹֽיְבֶ֔יךָ וְיָנֻ֥סוּ מְשַׂנְאֶ֖יךָ מִפָּנֶֽיךָ:
Whenever the ark set out, Moses would say, Arise, O Lord, may Your enemies be scattered and may those who hate You flee from You
Guidance has always been there. Whether we take it and face the future with confidence is for us to choose. In the words of Rabbi Hugo Gryn (z”l)
We are not so much chosen as choosers. Life is holy. All life; mine and yours; that of those came before us; and the life of those after us.