Friday, August 8, 2008

Parashat Devarim

Deuteronomy 1:12-13
12 How can I bear unaided the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering! 13 Pick from each of your tribes men who are wise, discerning, and experienced, and I will appoint them as your heads."

The first thing that struck me about this choice for our continuing chevruta is the first word in Hebrew: eichah. With Tisha B’av this coming Sunday, and Megillat Eichah in our purview, I have to point out that this is an appropriate pericope to study indeed (Thanks to Rabbi Brad Levenberg for suggesting these verses).
Back to the text, Moses bewails the need to share in the leadership of the Israelites in a review of Parashat Yitro where his father-in-law tells him the same thing. Moses appoints a leadership team to help him. In sharing in the responsibilities of managing the Israelites, Moses hits on an extremely important aspect of Jewish Life: We cannot be alone.
So too on Tisha B’av, our day of mourning when we lament over the tragedies that have befallen our people age after age. We do not eat, and mourn on a personal level by how we treat our bodies. But that does not suffice. We gather to mourn and pray. We read aloud the words of the book of eichah, “How lonely sits the city Once great with people! She that was great among nations Is become like a widow; The princess among states Is become a thrall.” We sit lonely, but not alone.
When we are at our most desperate, we call on our community as Moses does when he appoints leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands. When we are mourning personal or communal losses, we call on our community to cry with us. When we are feeling lonely, we call on our community to remind us that as a Jewish people, we are never alon.

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