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I’ve always been bothered by the end of the movie Titanic when only Rose, and not Jack, climbs on to the door in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean after the ship goes down. Despite the decades-long debates about this scene, the idea of clinging for survival is very relevant to Judaism, but in our case it's the survival of faith.
As we enter the last book of the Torah, we see Moses reminding the Israelites to be there for each other through this change and always. What a perfect analogy as we rediscover what it means to be there for each other as a community.
For better or worse, the scroll we call the Torah isn’t updated. We can’t change the text because, as the word of God, the story is static and unchanging. However, this week's Torah portion is an example of why we have rabbinic scholars who work to understand its intent so we can apply it to our lives today.
I think my attraction to the idea of starting and ending my days with a connection to the earth, to God, and to my body also offers some insight into my love of Judaism. Jewish living is structured around prayer - daily prayer - and that comes from our Torah portion this week, Pinchas.
As a kid I used to love those brain teaser books that showed you one small part of a bigger picture, and you had to guess what the big picture was. Now that the world is starting to open again and more restrictions are lifted, we’re almost at the point where we can once again see the big picture. And as one of the people who has been fortunate to have the vantage point of looking out at our community in its entirety, I can’t wait to have that view again.
We often talk about how the pain of the present can affect future generations, but we don’t often think that our past can feel our current pain. This week our Torah portion sends us a hopeful message, especially as we’re finally renewing relationships with people in person.
If there are atrocities, if there is corruption, by all means, call it out. On the other hand, private, deliberate, and strategic rebukes have their places too. It doesn’t seem to be the preferred method in an age driven by social media and every minute news, but if this week’s Torah portion teaches anything, it’s that the measured response deserves a seat at the table.