We come to the end of Numbers this Shabbat. A double portion that presents us with several issues, from family dynamics (the Daughters of Zelophechad (35), to calendar and the issue of vows (30). There is also a challenging episode that we rarely teach in religious school that is found in chapter 31 in which the Israelites are called on to avenge the Midianites By the way, in 31:8, Balaam makes an appearance.
However, the portion’s concluding verses also look at the development of what are called “cities of refuge”. (35). These aray ha-miklat provide shelter (the modern Hebrew word for shelter, as in air raid shelter remains miklat) for the person who has killed a person unintentionally. (35:11) This idea of refuge reminded me of so much of what we have been experiencing these past months and sparked the question for us as to where do we find refuge from the stresses and strains of life?
I think this issue is one we do not look at enough. Indeed, often we find this concept too late in life. What provides each of us with a sense of refuge, a retreat, a place of safety from dealing with life. We each need this. Each one of us needs some place that we can retreat to, to seek a refuge from the demands and challenges of life. Yes, this ia the “happy place” that so many speak about. It may be a place or a relationship or a combination, but, we all need a place that we can go to to seek a refuge from life.
A dictionary definition says that refuge is “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble”. Where do you go to find such a condition? How important has this become as we age? Is your spiritual life a location for this refuge? Where do or where can we go?
Rabbi Richard F Address