“The entire community of the children of Israel complained against Moses”
This has been a terrible week. We are all troubled by the murder and destruction in Arizona. The death of Debbie Friedman, a pioneer in Jewish music, has rocked the Jewish world. Personally, one of our dogs has been in the animal hospital clinging to life as a result of a rare disorder. On top of this, I began my week in the ER, receiving 6 stitches to my foot. I have spent the rest of the week in an attractive foot boot, hobbling around on crutches.
This week the Torah teaches us that our ancestors were incapable of seeing the glass half-full. The minute the Israelites leave Egypt and the pain and suffering that must have been a part of their lives in that country, they begin complaining to Moses. “Why did you take us out of Egypt! We had it good there compared to our new life in the desert!” How quickly they forget the work and abuse associated with being slaves of Pharaoh! How easily they saw the challenges of their new life, a life of freedom, as being worse than life as slaves. Granted, they were hot, hungry, thirsty and tired in the desert – but they were free. As we read this story it is so easy to think: “How ungrateful and short-sighted our ancestors were!” We forget, however, that we can so easily identify with their misery.
This has been a terrible week. A week that saw violence on the national stage, the silencing of a musical inspiration on the Jewish stage and emotional and physical challenges on my personal stage. I confess, this week, I complained to God. I asked: “WHY!?”
Of course, there are no real answers during the challenging times. There are blessings however. During weeks like these, we need to cling to the good things in life: the heroic efforts of those in Arizona; the immortal music of Debbie Friedman; the fact that my stitches will be out in just a few days and I will still be able to run my marathon; and the fact that my family has been fortunate enough to have an incredible veterinary team looking after our dog.
But when we are truly challenged, we can’t see the blessings. We act like our ancestors did upon fleeing Egypt. All we can do is focus on the negative. Sometimes the negative stuff is so overwhelming, it is hard to focus on anything else. The bad seems to outweigh the good. It becomes all-consuming. This is what happened to me this week. But, as Shabbat gets closer and I reflect upon this week’s Torah portion and the complaints of our ancestors as they left Egypt, I realize that while the bad stuff has been really heavy this week – the good stuff is there.
As I give myself time to appreciate the good stuff, I realize that it is beautiful.
I pray that this Shabbat, my family and I can focus on the blessings in our lives and experience the simple joy of being together. And I pray that each and every single one of you can do exactly the same thing.
For many of us, this has been a terrible week. But, it has also been pretty amazing. The fact that I can write these words and you can read them is all the proof we need.