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Marking the Way to Now

July 17, 2009

So… sometimes there is too much life and not enough time. Seems to be my constant refrain. My life gets in the way of my life. But I’m back. This week is Mattot – Ma’sei (Numbers 30:2 – 36:13)and one of the things contained in it is the law of vows and, in the spirit of Ecclesiastes, it is better not to vow than not to fulfill a vow. So I vow to do my best to do this every week but I do not vow to do it every week. There. I loved that in Elyse Friedman’s D’var Torah this week on the URJ web site she talks about the Berkshire mountains in Lenox (and environs). This is where my mother has lived for over 35 years and I know precisely where she describing. it is a place very dear to me. She likens it to Shelach L’cha when the people believed the worst and were afraid to go forward; the fear or ugliness obscuring the way forward to beauty. That failure angered G-d and the people were set to wandering for forty years or, until the generation that perpetrated this provocation were gone. Mattot-Ma’sei begins with the tribes and goes on to tell us of the journey. There are many things in this portion, war, laws of annulment of vows including the annoying fact that men could annul the vows of women, the laws of various types of murder (tempting to talk about given my background). But I think what matters most is the journey. This parshah lists the 42 “stations” or places where the people lit in their Exodus from Egypt to their arrival at the promised land. But this journey is not just the physical journey from Egypt to Israel; it is the journey of the generation, the life of them, that had to pass for the people to be permitted to enter the promised land. This is the journey of a people who were cast out into freedom and had to learn what freedom meant for them. One commentary I read says that one of the lines translates to “travelling from the burial place of desires”. I love this, the idea of travelling from what we want, to what we get. So in travelling to what G-d intends for us, how do we mark the story, the “stations”. There are pivotal points in all our lives, things that mark our story, that help us make sense of the journey. Another commentary talked about the idea that Moses marked the waystations so we would know our story, so they would know their story, be reminded, remember their story, their journey. So in travelling to what we get, we need to know our own stories, to mark our way, to chronicle and revisit our own histories. My mother is writing her history now and she is being pretty brutally honest. She tells me my life is interesting and that I should write it; but that if I do I must include everything, good, bad, ugly or beautiful or it won’t be honest and true. Maybe I just need to chronicle the pivotal points, they are likely to be all that I can remember. So that as I travel from the burial place of my desires to the here and now of what G-d has chosen for me, the beautiful moment that is my life, I have guideposts to remember my own story. I do know that memory is malleable, as contrary as the wind and really what I get is each moment. If I stay in the bubble of each moment, there is never too much life; just exactly enough. Shabbat Shalom

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