Devarim - The Spiral Journey

Summer is a time of travels, and it reminds me of what I learned at my father’s feet-- to be a good map reader. You find where you are, you locate where you are headed, and you try to figure out the best way to get there. Usually, it’s the shortest road, or the one with the most highway, the fastest way.

It’s a good skill for car travels, but really not the way life works. This week’s Torah reading, the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, tell us that Moses addressed the people in the fortieth year of their journey from Mt. Sinai, in the eleventh month, and on the first day of the month. Forty years it took—and yet, says Torah, it is only an eleven day journey.

Forty years to go a distance that could be traveled in eleven days? Couldn’t G-d have given Moses better directions? What is that about? Perhaps it is that some kinds of wisdom take time to accumulate.

Perhaps the map is the wrong metaphor for life. Life is more like a spiral or a curlicue, with themes and challenges and successes moving in and out of focus.

The Shabbat we celebrate tonight has another name—Shabbat Hazon, the Sabbath of Vision. It is named after the prophet Isaiah who saw that after the iniquities and the abominations that people perpetrated on each other—some Jewish, some not, there would be a time when Zion would would be redeemed with justice. Tsion b’mishpat tipadeh.

Tonight is a time to recommit to the path of justice, to recommit to working for the well-being of all life, whether in our beloved Israel, or our beloved United States of America.

G-d has promised that we will be strengthened and supported in these efforts. Ken yehi ratzon. May it be so.