Posted by: Subway Conductor | May 22, 2020

Derasha for May 22, 2020

We are getting closer and closer to the point where the shul can reopen but we aren’t there yet. We miss all of you but until then, here’s the Rabbi’s derasha.


A Derasha on Parshat Bamidbar


Bamidbar is the first parsha in the Book of Numbers. The Book is titled Numbers in English since its first topic is a census and a report of the numbers of the various tribes. The Hebrew name is the first important word – bamidbar – “in the wilderness.” But, the name of the book is of great significance.

The wilderness plays a central role in the Torah. The majority of the Torah takes place “in the wilderness.” The Book of Genesis ends in Egypt. The Book of Exodus begins in Egypt. But, from the middle of the Book of Exodus through Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy everything takes place in the wilderness. The wilderness is the territory between Egypt and Israel. We can see that the Torah has two poles – Egypt and Israel – but the most important place, where most of the action happens is in the middle. The wilderness is a no-man’s land that represents a transition between Egypt and Israel. Egypt is where the Jewish People became a nation in an experience of oppression. Israel is where we will eventually establish a country. But the Torah is concerned with the territory in between – the wilderness.

All of the important institutions of Judaism are formed in the wilderness. The Shabbat is given, the laws are promulgated, a judicial system is formed, the sanctuary with its rituals including sacrificing is established, the priesthood is ordained, and the holiday cycle is created. All of these institutions of Judaism which will continue in the Land of Israel come into being during the wandering in the wilderness.

The emphasis on this transitional territory between Egypt and Israel is instructive. We should note that the Torah ends with the death of Moses on the other side of the Jordan, not in Israel. When we get to the end of Deuteronomy, we still have not entered the promised land. Moses is not allowed to enter the land towards which he has been leading the people for all these years. The point is that life is a journey towards a goal that is always before us. In life we never reach a place where we can rest and say “I’m here. I’ve arrived. I have nothing more to accomplish.” Life is a challenge from beginning to end. The goal is not to arrive at some perfect state, but to always be moving towards it.

The goal can only be seen from a distance. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses is given the opportunity to go up on a mountain to look over the promised land from afar. But note, it is only Moses who is given this opportunity. Even the greatest among us can only see the goal from afar.

The Torah is a story of a journey. Life is a journey and it Is making the journey that is important. Life is a constant striving to improve, to grow, to overcome our baser impulses and live up to our higher aspirations.



Memorial Day

This Monday is Memorial Day. This is a time for remembering the sacrifices that so many Americans have made so that we can enjoy the blessings of freedom. As Jews we need to particularly remember that the defeat of Nazism in Europe was only accomplished through the heroism and the willingness to sacrifice of a generation of Americans. Many of our members who are buried at the Peoria Hebrew Cemetery were veterans of World War II. We should not let this Memorial Day pass without pausing to think about their service to our country and the great accomplishment of freeing the world from tyranny.



Have a good Shabbos and stay safe!


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