Faces on Faith: The Journey
The Jewish Sabbath lectionary consists of 54 weekly portions from the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. (There are 54 to cover the weeks of a Jewish leap year.) Each week, at Sabbath synagogue worship, we chant one of these several-chapter passages from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy.
The last portion (parashah, in Hebrew) from the Book of Numbers is called Masei and is composed of Numbers 33.1-36.13. Like every parashah, this one is named for its first significant Hebrew word. Masei means “marches.” This opening verse (Numbers 33.1) begins a detailed account of the places, along the way, of the Israelite’s desert journey.
The list of these places-along-the-way can seem pretty excruciating to the average Bible reader. Why this detailed travelogue, with names of places that most of us can barely recognize?
Here’s my theory . . .
For the Israelites, as for all of us, every geographic stop along life’s path carried specific memories and lessons learned. This listing of place names is but shorthand for all the significant events that happened in each location.
We all experience this phenomenon when we recall an important life event with words like, “Oh, yeah. I remember that. We had just moved to (fill in the blank) when that happened.” Or some similar recollection . . .
In January of 2014, I rolled in to Sanibel (literally! driving the motorhome, in which I would reside, into Periwinkle Park). In just days, that RV and I will be leaving Southwest Florida for the last time.
I have written and spoken, in other venues, of the many blessings that my three-and-a-half year Sanibel stay has bequeathed me. I give thanks to so many for wisdom and kindness. I treasure the sunshine and the animals and all the beauty of this place. I’m not sure where else I can so joyfully ride my bike to work!
To readers of this “Faces of Faith” column, know that I appreciate your time and your comments. Thank you for supporting this interfaith project of our island religious leaders. In “talking” to each other, we do much to further peace among us. I am grateful for the collegiality of these other faith leaders, and especially so to John Danner, who has been my nearest colleague at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, where Bat Yam shares sacred meeting space, and who is the organizer of this column and its contributors.
Next stop . . . Rwanda, where I will be a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English. Who knows what that stop-along-the-way will bring? But I am certain that it will be informed by wonderful memories from my sojourn here. I am deeply grateful to everyone who crossed my path along the way.
May all of our life’s marches be filled with blessing. And may we ever give thanks for the many places, and people there, along the way . . .
-Rabbi Myra Soifer; Bat Yam Temple of the Islands