Friday, May 14, 2021/3 Sivan, 5781
Parashat B’midbar Numbers 1:1−4:20
For seven weeks, many of us have gathered every morning for prayer, community, and reflection. We began during Passover when we celebrated our liberation from Egyptian bondage. Sunday morning will be our last day counting the omer – the days between our Exodus and Revelation. That evening, we will finally arrive at Shavuot, a holiday that celebrates receiving the Torah.
This year, the omer journey has felt particularly significant. It marks our ancestor’s journey, as they walked through the desert with hope in their hearts but uncertainty and anxiety. They hated slavery, but the expanse of the wilderness before them, without markers or signs, was at times even scarier.
This week we study the Torah portion B’midbar, which means “In the wilderness.” Over the past fourteen months, we, too, have been living through a period of precariousness and hardship. We, like the Israelites, have done our best to respond to challenges that we could not have predicted and to help one another along the way.
This Sunday, our Omer journey comes to an end. At 4 pm, a phenomenal group of teenagers will lead us in a Shavuot service. They will chant the Ten Commandments and affirm their Jewish identity as we embrace the Torah once more. Shavuot is always a special holiday, but this year the occasion will be especially celebratory. Sunday night’s service will be the first one in our temple’s sanctuary in over a year. The service will be sparsely attended. Only Confirmation families will be present in person, but everyone is welcome to join through Zoom, Facebook Live, or YouTube for this special service. We are hoping that there will be more hybrid services within the coming weeks and months. How this progresses will largely be dependent on the answers from the reopening survey that we recently sent out. (If you haven’t yet responded, please do!)
It feels fitting that our incredible teens will lead our first multi-access service. Despite the challenges of Torah school online, each of them has worked hard to continue their Jewish education and prepare for this service. They have shown incredible resilience, commitment, and connection to the Jewish community. They have adapted continually to the changing circumstances of the pandemic with poise and grace.
When the Jewish people prepare to go into the promised land, God offers Joshua two words repeatedly. Those words are Chazak ve’ematz, “Be strong and resolute.” God knew that the Israelites’ journey was far from over. There would be many hurdles along the way. But God also knew how strong and wise they were. With the best interests of the community on their minds and hope in their hearts, God wished them strength for the journey ahead.
Let us celebrate that we can enjoy a service from our gorgeous sanctuary, and let us continue to be patient, thoughtful, and understanding as we traverse the journey ahead. Chazak ve’ematz, may we be strong and resolute.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
Rabbi Cassi Kail