19 Sivan 5772 / June 8-9, 2012
This week’s portion, Beha’alotcha, contains two of the better-known verses from the Torah:
“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: ‘Advance O Lord! May your enemies be scattered, and may your foes flee before you!’”
“And when it halted, he would say: ‘Return, Oh Lord, unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel.’”
You may be more familiar with theses verses in their original Hebrew, as in traditional synagogues, these verses have been built into the liturgy recited when taking the Torah out of the ark and when returning it to the ark after reading it.
What is it to return after setting out?
For me, returning is a loaded term, but a timely one, given that I learned this past week that work would allow me to relocate – rather, return – to the Metro Detroit area; to my community and my home – to my ark.
I find myself part of a growing Reverse-Exodus of those who have left the Detroit area only to return to our arks after some time away. As we set out to explore the greater world around us, I’m confident that our loved ones wished for our enemies to be scattered. So too, it is comforting to know that when returning, there are myriad families waiting for us with love and open arms.
There simply is something special about home, and about the process of returning.
The Hebrew word for repentance, “teshuva,” literally translates to “return.” From a traditional standpoint, when we’ve done something wrong, the need exists to return to the proper path, which can only be done by making amends for our transgressions. While I’m not going to suggest that moving away from home was inherently a transgression, there are absolutely people I need to reach out to and make amends with, as it is possible that they internalized my decision to leave last August as a negative reflection on them.
Just because we view our decisions through a certain lens does not mean that others view those decisions through the same lens. Just because we don’t know that we’ve somehow hurt others does not mean that we haven’t indeed hurt others. Whether or not you return to your origin after embarking, know that it’s possible there are some remaining behind who may be pained by your departure, and who it may be worth reaching out to.
This week, whether you’ve recently set out or returned already, think about those in your ark you can reach out and express gratitude to. Don’t take the open, loving arms for granted. And once you’ve returned, be sure to extend your arms to others as well.