These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

An Even Stronger “Am”

Posted on July 12, 2013 by Andrea Wiese

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I wrote this dvar Torah after a four-day desert adventure with NFTY:

This week we start reading the book of Devarim / Deuteronomy. Devarim takes place right before the Israelites are going to enter the land that God gave them. And Moshe is reminding the Jewish people of the laws that God gave to the people and retelling them of their journey in the desert. This is EXACTLY where we are in our journey. We traveled in the desert and now, tomorrow, we are going to enter the land and go to Jerusalem, to the land that God promised us.

The book starts with the sentence, “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel.” This doesn’t seem to interesting… except, that we should remember that when God first asked Moshe to save the Jewish people from slavery, Moshe said no, because he wasn’t a good SPEAKER and he was afraid that the people wouldn’t understand him and that he wouldn’t be a good leader.

So if Moshe wasn’t a good speaker when he took the Jews out of Egypt, but now, the entire book of Devarim are words spoken by Moshe to the Jewish people… what happened in between? What happened to Moshe in the desert? I think, the desert changed Moshe, the desert made Moshe become a leader; (maybe even forced him) he had to learn how to be a clear and effective speaker so he could lead the Jewish people.

I think this also happened to many of us. Maybe some of us went into the desert thinking, “I don’t poop outside, I don’t go without showering for four days, I don’t sleep outside without a tent, I don’t hike MOUNTAINS! I can’t carry 4 liters of water on my back!!” It’s just too hard, I can’t do it. And maybe even some thought the night before Har Shlomo… can I really be a leader? Will I be strong enough to finish the hike? Will I be strong enough to help my friends, will I be able to keep a positive attitude and keep my head up when it’s hard, when it hurts, when I can’t breathe?

Well, yes! Just like Moshe, we didn’t know this was going to happen. But, you were strong enough! We overcame so much in the desert. We pooped outside, we didn’t shower, we laughed, we sang, we held each other’s hands, we carried other people’s bags and water, we ran back DOWN the mountain to hike up again with a new friend. We all changed and became better in the desert, we became supporters, we became leaders, we became friend and we became a people, a unified unit a “am”.

I don’t think it was a mistake that God made us wander in the desert for 40 years, because we became one people, a Jewish people, and just like in the Torah, we will enter Israel, and enter Jerusalem. But just like the Jewish people, we will still make mistakes and we will still grow. So my blessing for us is that we hold on to the desert, we remember the lessons we learned and the hands we held. And when we get to Jerusalem, we will still continue to grow and become even better people, and in turn an even stronger “Am.”