Jewish identity and values are not transmitted automatically. We need the wisdom and commitment to create vibrant Jewish lives for ourselves, our families and for our entire community. To build a Jewish future is an ongoing challenge and responsibility. It is also an ineffable privilege and a source of infinite delight.
Angel for Shabbat
Our great biblical heroes, as well as our great spiritual heroes of all generations, were real human beings, not plaster saints. They had real feelings, real conflicts. Many times they performed admirably; on some occasions they fell short. To suggest that anyone is “perfect”—totally devoid of sin and error—is to misrepresent that person and to misrepresent truth.
For the Jewish people, history has always been experienced as a dimension of the present. As we go through life, we bring along our ancestors. We carry their names, we feel their presence.
Rashi quotes two opinions, drawn from Midrashic teachings, as to the nature of this dust that was used to create Adam i.e. humanity. One opinion suggests that God gathered dust from the four corners of the earth in order to fashion Adam. The other opinion has it that God took the dust from one spot, the site of the future holy Temple in Jerusalem.
We are called upon to do that which is good and right in the eyes of God. This is a tremendous challenge--and an honor. It entails the fulfillment of the teachings of the Torah in a spirit of truth and compassion, but favoring the tendency to "hessed".
If we are to be responsible individuals, we must resist the tyranny of “groupthink.” We must insist on the freedom to think for ourselves, to evaluate ideas independently, to stand up against coercion and intimidation. We must strive for a religious life that is alive and dynamic.
In his book, “The Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky divides the world into two kinds of societies: fear societies, and free societies. Fear societies are tyrannies which rule by terrorizing their subjects, by restricting freedom of speech and movement, by instilling fear so that people will not voice opposition to the rulers. Fear societies are controlled by tyrants who are not hesitant to brutalize their people in order to quash dissent.
An inevitable feature of human life is making mistakes. No one is always right; no one always makes the correct decisions. The sign of greatness is to recognize our mistakes and misjudgments and seek a second chance. Even if one’s original error had been made with the best of intentions, one needs the strength to say: I was wrong; I need a second chance. Pessah Sheni occurs this year on Sunday Mary 15.
The detailed description of the Israelites’ travels in the wilderness reminds us of the importance of the past stages of our lives. It also serves to call our attention to the future, to the Promised Land, to the goals not yet attained. Just as we are strengthened by our past, we are energized by the hopes for our future.
Let us call to mind the image of Elijah the prophet and his ongoing significance to us. Elijah reminds us how vital it is for religion to stay in touch with reality; for parents to stay in touch with their children; for children to turn their hearts back to the traditions of the older generations.