The car packed to the hilt, the Thule threatening to burst at the seams atop our car, our family drove with desperation for one purpose only: to be near the mountains. The familiar rental cabin nestled fifteen miles from Mt. Baker in Washington affords five star mountain accommodations: no cell phone access, no wireless internet and no cable TV. In essence, the goal was to set up shop, our own Mishkan, away from the roar of everyday life. While some of the usual technological conveniences were lost, we knew we would not be without the four elements crucial to the Mishkan and considered symbolically essential in any Jewish home: the Ark, the Table, the Menorah and the Incense Altar. Ok, well not literally - they wouldn't fit in the car. However, all of these elements are interconnected to the basic physical elements that still exist in this world: air, fire, earth and water. Being out in the more remote areas at the foot of a mountain, it wasn't hard to see that I was in a larger than life Mishkan model that was vitally connected to all of these natural elements. Perhaps it was noticing on our second day the Holy Smoke bus, clad in gold (or school bus yellow paint) that waited outside the gate of the cabin properties boasting of an eatery just down the road. It sat there, as if some beacon, reminding me that even in this remote area, under the Heavens, we carry our own Mishkans with us today and follow suit with the kohanim: setting up, tearing down, wherever we go, wherever we stay.
This week we witness a momentous reunion of two brothers, Joseph and Judah. Judah boldly pleads for the life of Benjamin and the sake of his father's well-being. Through this event, we witness not only redemption and restoration for that moment in time, but a prophetic vision of the future for all Jewry through the traits and attributes of these two men.
"Not by might, nor by power, but through My spirit" - Zechariah 4:6, read on Shabbat Chanukah
There is no doubt that we, as women, have the ability to carry much and rest little. Whether we have families, or care for those around us, we are constantly in motion. Sometimes before we even realize where the day has gone, it is over. But how do we maintain the balance of giving light and being sure our cruise of oil doesn't run out? As the darkness of the winter season comes upon us, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves, let alone feel cheery. However, as bearers of the light of Mashiach, it is possible to dance like the flames of the candles and radiate light, as well as endure the challenges of our days beyond what we think is possible.
Ramban teaches us that Sefer Bereshis is really a book of symbols and allegory; it tells us not only what transpired in the past, but more importantly, it reveals that which will occur in the future. The poet William Blake says it well in this passage:
"To see a world in a grain of sand And a Heaven in a wildflower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour.... But does a human form display To those who dwell in realms of day."
We are wishing you a sweet and prosperous New Year 5771. How are you going to make this year better than the next? How will we all be a better light for Messiah this year? I think we have an answer. Our community has started a new project and all are invited to participate. Let me introduce you to the practice of Mussar for the Messianic Jewish community.
The Hebrew term Mussar(מוּסַר), is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning instruction, discipline, or conduct. The Mussar movement was a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in 19th century Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews.
A diligent study of Mussar (Jewish ethical practice) can bring new life into your days. Our Mussar Master, Messiah Yeshua taught us how we should bring good fruit as a demonstration of our purposeful lives:
For a good tree does not produce rotten fruit, and a rotten tree does not produce good fruit. For every tree is recognized by its fruit; for people do not gather figs from thorns or harvest grapes from a thorny bush. A good man, from the storehouse of his good heart, obtains what is good; a bad man, from the storehouse of his bad heart, obtains what is bad. For from the overflow of a man’s heart his mouth will speak. (Luke 6:43-45)
Let us sprout good fruit this year. I welcome you to participate and be active in the Riverton Mussar project.
As I drive around to various locations throughout my week, I am stunned and sometimes exasperated by some of the housing prices. What drives some homes to be exceptionally more? Location, location. Want to live by a lake? See the mountains? Live in the perfect suburbia with everything you need? No problem. All you need to do is sign on the dotted line and hand over your salary - you can have it all. As we begin Sefer Devarim, we are witnessing Moshe as the first real estate broker in action for Eretz Yisrael.
Each one of us has one. It doesn't matter how great or small we may be - we each possess some vehicle upon which we transport our desires in order to see their fruition. This week's parasha illuminates so much more than a talking donkey that transports Balaam and his wicked desires. The rabbis contend that this story of Balaam, as an allegory or prophetic vision, is its own book. Slated almost as a commercial break in the middle of Bamidbar, parasha Balak offers us deep insight into the human psyche and the inner workings of an unhealthy neshama. Taking a break from the troubles of Yisrael, it lays out the tragedy of a soul gone awry and shows us the power of speech, blessing and desire.