This week, we begin reading the fourth book of the Torah, the Book of Numbers, called B’midbar in Hebrew. The word “b’midbar” means “in the wilderness.” The entire book takes place in the wilderness of Sinai as the Israelites travel from Egypt to the Promised Land.
The wilderness can seem like a place of uncertainty, full of fear of the unknown, hesitation and anxiety about the future. The wilderness is also a place of great creativity, growth and maturation. The Jewish people received the Torah in the wilderness, we learned how to engage in a relationship with God and we became a covenantal people, united with common values and teachings.
This week is our official last day of our 2022-2023 Religious School season for our students. Our ECC students will soon complete their official year of learning as well. Our first summer outdoor Erev Shabbat service will “kick off” next week (Friday, May 26th, 6 pm – with a Memorial Day commemoration of those who lost their lives in service to our country). For some, summer is a time of relaxation and release. For others, summer seems like a time of “wandering lost in the wilderness” (like some of the Israelites felt in B’midbar) with no structure.
As we approach the more relaxed days of summer, this time of metaphorical “wandering,” I am inspired by the teaching of Rabbi Barry Greene, z”l, who used to challenge his congregants to engage in four activities at the beginning of every summer. He taught that by doing these things, you would expand your mind, open your heart, nurture your body and refresh your soul. (This challenge is for all ages: adults, teens, youth and our youngest children.
I am adding to the challenge: I encourage you to share your experiences with me so we can learn from each other as a community. At the end of the summer, I will compile all these “learnings” into either a High Holy Day sermon or a written post. Feel free to send photos, messages, ideas, stories. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay tuned to see “The Challenge Results!”
The Four-Part Challenge:
- Read a good book.
- Make a new friend.
- Take a long walk.
- Do a mitzvah (an act of “tikkun olam” repairing our world) – something to make this world a better place, something to help someone and make them smile. And/or, a ritual act: lighting Shabbat candles or making Kiddush, attending Torah study or Shabbat services, learn how to blow the shofar (if you need ideas, contact me).
I encourage you to keep a short journal noting for each of these four activities:
- What you did;
- How did these experiences make you feel;
- What did you learn;
- What do you want others to know about your participation in this challenge.
At the end of the summer (or when you complete the challenge), please email me your journal: email@example.com
If you would like to meet for lunch or coffee or a walk over the summer, send me a note as well! You can also join the “Weekly Walk With The Rabbi” which will take place each Thursday morning at 7 am, beginning Thursday, June 1st. Email Mara, firstname.lastname@example.org in the office to rsvp and to obtain the meeting place for the first walk.