Preparing for the Wilderness
May 22, 2020
By Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

This week we enter the Wilderness in Torah, that is the Book of Numbers, which is called B’Midbar, “In the Wilderness” in Hebrew.

Our ancestors gathered round, counted off, and created an orderly arrangement for the Tribes of Israel to protect one another and the Tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant as they set off from Mount Sinai and braved the Wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, to Israel.

Moses and the Israelites understood that they had no idea what they would encounter in the Wilderness, so they prepared for the unknown to the best of their abilities and worked together. We are doing much the same. Our communities are moving from strategic planning, where we have a set goal in mind, to scenario planning, where we have no idea what will come, but we will ready as many options as we can to attend to the unknown. We are in the Wilderness in a most profound way.

Our son, Jude Freirich, inspired this reflection with his D’var Torah, which he will deliver for his Bar Mitzvah this coming Shabbat, via Zoom. Jude has faced this new reality with equanimity and enthusiasm and looks forward to a ritual broadcast from our living room to the world. While hardly a “wilderness experience” – we are grateful for the relative luxuries of our comforts in comparison to those of our ancestors in the Sinai and our general good fortune and blessings – this was not the Bar Mitzvah experience that we anticipated.

So many of us have had to grapple with challenges and obstacles much more significant than a Zoom Bar Mitzvah. We had not planned for these things. Still, we as a Jewish community continue to rise to the occasion. We steer together guided by our most important values – preserving life and health first – and then figuring out how best to comfort one another and celebrate together, even when together means over the phone or Zoom or FaceBook Live.

All of you are invited to join us for Jude’s Bar Mitzvah, live on Zoom Webinar, this Shabbat morning, at 10:30 AM. Click the button below to join the webinar!

Password: 152473

Thank you for being a supportive and sustaining Jewish community that pulls together no matter where in the Wilderness we may have to go, Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Jonathan Freirich is a spiritual leader at Temple Beth Zion.

Preparing for the Wilderness - Jewish thought of the week graphic