Parsha Bamidbar May 22, 2004 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
We are approaching the two days of Shavuot, which represents the three-pronged connection between the Torah, God and each Jew. When we read the Biblical chapter, Bamidbar, which means, "When we are wandering in the desert…." This portion brings to life again the saga of the post-slavery journey. The million-person march in the desert towards the Holy Land is full of drama, and miracles. The direct protection and provision of food and drink from God, through his caring guidance and generous gift of manna direct from heaven.
A few evenings ago, on my way to pray Maariv, I unexpectedly bumped into a friend from the past, visiting here from Israel.
My exhilaration and joy quickly turned to sorrow at the tale of his woes. He told me that some months ago, he was happily getting ready to give his daughter away in marriage. This young woman was engaged to a fine and honorable student successfully studying in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Two weeks before the scheduled wedding, this beautiful 19 year old girl, went to pray at the Western Wall. While this young bride-to-be was riding home on bus 14, a homicide bomber struck, and she was severely wounded. Fighting for her life, she lay in a hospital bed unconscious for several weeks. She had to endure many surgeries, and persevere through a tough recovery. Despite the suffering she endured, her entire body, particularly her face is now full of red sores and blue scars. She is going to need cosmetic surgery in San Diego, CA, perhaps to have a chance to look normal.
One part of this tragic story that particularly touched my heart was when her father jokingly said, "Imagine, her groom, who has been sitting at her bedside for six months, said, ‘don’t worry. No matter what, I am going to marry her.’" Actually, he had just met her several times, because they are ultra-orthodox, and because of that they had never touched. The relationship was purely platonic. The groom’s reaction demonstrated true, unconditional love and the value of cherishing Torah values and life.
May God give this family full health and divine healing. We wish this young man and bride the strength and Mazal to persevere. How praiseworthy are these people, who stick by their commitments regardless of their circumstances or setbacks. During the Festival of Shavuot, this Tuesday and Wednesday we rededicate our eternal bond and reason for being.
Judaism teaches that history is shaped by the actions and thoughts of humans. For example, the Marxist doctrine of history, set up and governed by irresistible, omnipotent social and economic forces, suppressed the decisions and behavior of the individual. This ideological oppression is in direct antithesis to Jewish tradition. We believe that people make a difference and shape events. Everyone counts and is a blessed resource, hopefully for good. One cannot escape personal responsibility by exclusively placing blame for what goes wrong on outside forces, fate or chance. Judaism is the faith of personal accountability, this is true not only in leadership roles, but in everyone’s private domain as well. In the book of life, all of our names are recorded next to our decisions and deeds. Personal responsibility is the watchword. In Ethics of the Fathers, the sages say, "Who is wise?" And the answer to this question is, "One who learns from everyone and everything."
I wish that God may continue to look over all of his creatures and bring more love, well-being and wisdom to the world.