Parashat Masei

On the Move

To the untrained eye, this portion like so many appears to be a ‎humdrum list of places and movements with some arcane ‎references to cities of refuge. In the middle of this we find that ‎Moshe is commanded to recap the journey so far, mentioning in ‎detail the 42 places or stages of the journey that has unfolded ‎before them as we wandered in the wilderness. How quick we ‎are to forget that each step taken was only done as the Lord led ‎us to move on, the pillar of cloud and fire by night marking out ‎the route we were to walk. Putting it another way, each step we ‎took, each slot of time we spent in each place was allocated, ‎pre-planned and determined by G-d. How often do we read in ‎the Scriptures that ‘in due season…’, just as with Mashiach’s ‎birth and death. How quick we are to forget right now today that ‎this is true for us too. What may appear as a life out of control to ‎you is nothing other than a difficult navigation around a rocky ‎outcrop in the wilderness. Yes you might have a few bruises and ‎cuts to the knee but when the open vista appears before you ‎once more the legs are stronger and the trust greater. Our lives ‎are in His hands so we need not fear. His Spirit guides us each ‎and every day, if we can be bothered at times to look up from ‎the terrain we’re walking on.‎

Recounting the past journey is core to our own spiritual ‎development. Here the Lord wanted to reiterate the facts of His ‎guidance and leading, but also His judgement on the Egyptians. ‎We so quickly forget what He has done in the past! Frail human ‎memory coupled with the pounding insistence of present reality ‎corrupts memory and leads us to question our view of past ‎events. When the serpent challenged Adam and Chava’s ‎memory he knew that doubt could be sown.. ‘did G-d say…?’. ‎Sadly we had as a nation begun to forget what life had been like ‎‎(because let’s not forget that the vast majority of the generation ‎who had left Egypt were now dead…). Most had never known it ‎and so doubt could be sown too. The corporate memory of a ‎nation is born, the narrative of walking with and trusting G-d ‎starts to form us as His people, we believe and trust what has ‎been told to us by those who were there. ‎

Memories and the life walked to date is critical in building our ‎confidence and trust in what is yet to come. And what is yet to ‎come will almost certainly be more challenging than what has ‎gone before! Our previous track record of a life lived in faith ‎needs to be reviewed and pondered afresh to be in a place ‎where you can move on to fresh spiritual challenges. Will we ‎personally feel inadequate? Yes. That is good because in our ‎weakness He alone can be our strength.‎

Yet in our modern world we are told to have self-belief. We have ‎bought into the Eastern lies of self – inner strength and power, of ‎finding oneself within and knowing that you possess all the ‎power you need to self-actualise and fulfil your potential. Well, ‎those things are not true. And if you read it carefully, the Lord ‎doesn’t say those things either. Thankfully it’s not about us ‎digging up unknown or undiscovered wells of inner ability, the ‎Lord says ‘I am with you’. Our ability to go and fulfil what G-d has ‎called us to do is built upon the unchanging and eternal, solid ‎foundation of the nature and character of G-d. If He is with us, ‎who can be against us? Can any situation or event, person or ‎unclean spirit ever have the power or authority to override such ‎promises and sure foundations? No. We are instead directed to ‎trust in G-d once more, to turn our eyes to Him who CAN deliver ‎and release, set free and bring us to the point of freedom. You ‎don’t have the inner ability to overcome things, you have more ‎than that, you have the living G-d of Israel with you every day, ‎second and step you take. In a target driven culture where self-‎motivation and will power achieves results, this message of ‎reliance upon G-d seems out of step with reality, but actually it is ‎this world that is out of step. ‎

Remind yourself of what G-d has done for you, recap the route ‎taken as here today in the portion. Then, don’t give excuses as ‎to why you think you’re not ready for the next step, trust G-d for ‎it. Fear Him, not the situation. His ability is far larger than your ‎own, so lean on Him.‎

Rabbi Binyamin