Blogging the Torah: Parashat Devarim, All Together Now

Sunset at the beach in Provincetown

Are we there yet?  This is the time of year when many of us spend endless hours in the car trying to get to that perfect spot for rest and relaxation.  I understand this well. In two weeks I will journey to the tip of Cape Cod, which, if you look at a map of America, is as far as you can go on the continent…at least at this point on the continent.  And I remember those trips of my youth when I was in a car or school bus for long periods.  The sand and surf were in sight, the aquarium was so close you could almost hear the whales, or the roller coaster was so close you could hear the people yelling up high. You were ready to roll, to run, to swim.  But no!  First you had to hear the litany of instructions that your mom or camp counselor needed to share.  Those few minutes of often really important information were crucial.  But you were ready and it seemed endless.

This is summer in the Torah.  No, there are no roller coaster or surf.  Just the Israelite people led by Moses.  He is now somewhere close to 120 years old and he’s earned some attention.  Just like a mom reviewing everything before you go off to college, Moses goes on for a long time.  In fact, he reviews everything throughout the entire book of Devarim, often called Mishnei Torah — Repetition of Torah.  Let’s remember that this is not the generation of the Golden Calf.  They were not in Egypt.  They did not experience everything that their parents and grandparents did.  And unlike a friend who posted on Facebook that her daughter practically pushed her out of the bunk after dropping her off at camp this week (Time to go, Ma!), this generation stood in their tribes and listened to their history.  As Nechama Leibowitz noted:  in Numbers, “Moses speaks as a historian recounting the events as they took place.” In Deuteronomy, “he is delivering a moral discourse urging the people to learn the lesson of history.”  And they listened.

So what has changed?  I would like to suggested that through shared experience and their journey, the Israelites have become a k’hal, a holy community.

Community seems to be the theme of my week.  I just returned from the Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing training.  Moving Traditions, the organizer of the program, seeks to create supportive communities among girls in middle and high school around Rosh Hodesh, the first day of the new moon.  Through their Rosh Hodesh community girls explore themselves and their world while developing close-knit bonds with others who may have the same struggles and opportunities.

In the Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing program, we are clearly trying to create community with a specific goal in mind.  But sometime community just happens and you don’t realize that you are part of a community until you already are a member.

Over the last year or so I have been attending a Active Older Adults yoga class at my local Y.  Although I am not yet in the “older adult” category, I love this class.  The instructor is fabulous and my fellow classmates remind me of why I need to keep doing yoga…so when I am their age (some students are as much as 27 years older than I am), I will be healthy and mobile.  And while I’ve become friendly with the people in the class, chatting about our lives and such, I never really thought of us as community until the teacher announced the passing of a student.  Our mats were in a circle and we looked at one another in the eyes reminding ourselves that we now belonged to one another, even in this tangential way.

I cannot help wondering if that was what was the same feeling that the Israelites had at the moment.  I liked to think that they looked around the camp and realized that they were all part of one another.

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About Gail F. Nalven

Jewish Educator, Rabbi, Tefillah Leader, Songleader, Teacher, and Freelance Jew
This entry was posted in God, Teaching/Education, Tefillah (prayer), Torah, Yoga and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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