God speaks to the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus begins the Book of Numbers, a book that details much of the Wilderness experience. The portion counts people, days and generations. No doubt, those of you who attend Shabbat Torah study will go in to much detail.
Yet, let me reflect on this idea of Wilderness, a sense of being cut off or out of touch. For in recent years, thanks to Covid, we have heard this expressed by many, especially elders. The surge in anxiety reflects this sense of being adrift in a wilderness of limbo. But in that wilderness, as in any, we find moments, places of rest, of sanctuary—often unexpected. We find an oasis of meaning. Is it something beyond our own self that is speaking to us? So this week, prompted by the portion, let us ask ourselves where we find, or have found our own oasis?
An oasis is someplace that, in them midst of wilderness, provides shelter, refreshment and rest. Where is your oasis? What has emerged in these past years as the place or places; people or person who has provided you that sense of shelter, refreshment, even meaning? Have you found a new sense of relationship? Have you discovered something about yourself that was hidden? Has the rapid passage of time at our age allowed us to think more about priorities of life and spirit rather than the material things or events that we may have missed? Have we become more aware of loss and thus more appreciative of life? Is that an oasis of meaning?
We are all navigating our own wilderness. What gives us strength? Where do we find that oasis of meaning that allows us to be renewed and refreshed? I suggest that our portion opens the door, this Shabbat, to ask those questions.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.