Tuesday, May 14, 2013

As We Go On, We Remember…

2 Sivan 5773 / May 10-11, 2013
A Dvar Torah for Recent College Graduates

In this week’s portion, literally translated as “in the desert,” we find the Israelites conducting a census of all the men who are over the age of 20 and capable of bearing arms (not counting the Levites, who deal with the Tabernacle, the reported total was 603,550).

Once counted, each Tribe was designated a specific geographic area in which to camp, so that the Tabernacle would be surrounded on all sides and remain in the middle of the nation.  Needless to say, it’s amazing to try and picture what it actually would look like to have over 2 million people camped out around the Tabernacle.

Later in the portion, we learn about the various Levite clans and the specific Tabernacle responsibilities each was assigned.  We also learn that the priests were responsible for covering the various ritual objects with skins and cloths before a specific Levite clan was charged with physically moving them (don’t forget – the Tabernacle was portable, and was used while the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years).

Covering objects -- and portability in particular -- have been on my mind quite a bit lately.  My guess is that for those of you who graduated last week, packing and moving is on your minds as well.  While hopefully you’re not bound to wander for 40 years the way our ancestors did, it’s likely that your next life stage will comprise a number of adventures that inevitably will involve moving (possibly multiple times if the New York Times is right). 

What do you take with you?  What do you leave behind?

Furniture?  Clothing?  Memories?  Legacy?

What does it mean to establish a home (apartments count!) somewhere new?  What are the steps that go into making a space your own, and having it be a place guests feel comfortable and welcome in? 

How do you go about consciously building community in a new city?

The answers are different for each of us.  But asking the questions is essential.

Despite wandering in the desert for 40 years and the inevitable frustrations that must have arisen due to such transience, our ancestors were ultimately able to remain a community and stay grounded.  They figuratively and literally had something at their core that bound them together.  Community is valuable.  Community is grounding.  And community is worth building and investing in.

Wherever your journey takes you, whether it’s one that involves some wandering or is relatively fixed in terms of its location, join and build the Jewish community of your dreams.

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