Community Torah Corner, May 19, 2023

Rabbi Eliot Malomet
Highland Park Conservative Temple Congregation Anshe Emeth 
Highland Park, NJ
Parashat Bamidbar
God spoke to Moshe
in the Wilderness of Sinai,
in the Tent of Appointment,
on the first [day] of the second month,
in the second year
after their going-out from the land of Egypt,
וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֛ה
בְּמִדְבַּ֥ר סִינַ֖י
בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד
בְּאֶחָד֩ לַחֹ֨דֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִ֜י
בַּשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשֵּׁנִ֗ית
לְצֵאתָ֛ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם
So much information in just so few words.
Where are we now?
In the desert.
When does this take place?
It's the first day of the second month in the second year since the Exodus.
Pause for a moment and ask, what has happened so far in our story?
Egypt is still fresh in their memories, as is the memory of slavery. The excitement of that night of the Exodus, as is the memory of the wailing of the Egyptians as they discovered the death of their firstborn. The triumph at the Red Sea and the silence of the defeated Egyptian army. The war with Amalek and its lingering psychic injury. Mount Sinai. The Golden Calf. The breaking of the tablets. The aftermath. The building of the mishkan. The dedication of the mishkan. All the rules and laws that Moses has given them over the last few months. Thirst. Hunger. As well as the miracle of manna and the provision of water.
We are always attuned to records of dates and places. They form a shorthand, a kind of code for the narratives of our lives. If you are a fan of the movie Casablanca you understand what I mean. When Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman, "We'll always have Paris," yeah, we get it. Likewise, here. This verse is about one chapter ending and another beginning. It's about looking back and looking forward. Suddenly taking note of where they have been and where are they going.
Where am I? What time is it in my life now? Those are the big questions we ask ourselves when we are located at a crossroads or any other junction point. Those are precisely the questions that many of our students are asking themselves now as they graduate. They, like our ancient forebears, look back at the journey they have been on this far, with fondness and longing, and look forward with eager anticipation to the journey that lies ahead. We wish them luck and joy, courage and strength, and all of God's blessings. And, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, "You'll always have GOA."