CHUKKAT - weekly Torah portion

When wondering in the desert it is no wonder that when one reaches a well it is a reason to rejoice. This is certainly the case in this week’s portion of the Torah where the Israelites arrive at “Beer, that is the well where the Lord said to Moses, ‘Assemble the people, that I may give them water.’” Certainly water is a reason to celebrate and therefor “Israel sang this song: Spring up, O well! Sing to it! / The well, which the leaders sank, / Which the nobles of the people dug, / With the scepter and with their staffs.” Without water there is no life, there is no reason for living. Once water is available attitudes change, there is a reason to celebrate, one can sing, and then can also continue on one’s way. Once the water was consumed it allows sending “messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, ‘Let me pass through your land. We will not turn off into field or vineyard; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king’s highway until we have passed through your border. ‘” This request is rejected, not taking into account that the people were prepared and the result was devastating as “Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon”.

So we have a desert, we have some water, and we have a war, an unnecessary war that could have been easily avoided by granting passage. The desert is a tough environment, one must be able to orientate oneself and have survival skills. It requires wisdom, leadership and innovation. It is a symbol to all which is difficult while moving along from one source of life to another. Water in the desert do not simply appear at convenience, one has to dig for them, invest significant efforts, and believe that they can be reached. While doing so one has to be ready to withstand struggles that have nothing to do with the difficulty of sustaining oneself in the desert or the need to dig deep for water. It is necessary to confront external forces that are trying to prevent us from moving forward. Forces that do not see the advantage of cooperation and prefer friction, risking its consequences.

Yesterday evening I participated at the end of the year ceremony at our Movement’s pre-military institution, the Mekhina. Fifteen years ago the first group finished their pre-army training, now, with the fifteenth group completing a year’s leadership training at the Mekhina in Jaffa, a first group finished their leadership training at the Mekhina in Holon. The vision of the former director general of the IMPJ, Iri Kassel, came to fruition, crossed deserts, parked at wells full of water, and admittedly had to deal with several battles on the way. Nevertheless, some seventy youngsters finished the challenging course, some coming as far as the USA. This is a course that trains its graduates to be leaders in the military, the community and the state. It requires a significant investment but provides some exquisite results. The head of the Mekhina, Shimku El Ami was visibly emotional when he blessed the graduates blessing them “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber… The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand… The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.”

The Mekhina is one of those wells which the Movement in Israel cultivates. It is a source for women and men who decided to spend a gap year before their military service and devote that time to prepare for it. The replace the convenience of being at the comfort of their homes and move into an unchartered desert, a challenging transition from adolescence to maturity. They study from many wells that are made accessible through our Mekhina, which are full with Jewish teachings, some of which they have never met before and now have to deal with as young adults. Not all get there as graduates of the our youth movement and so are exposed for the first time to the Reform Movement not through television or journalism, through boisterousness or factionalism, but rather though self-experience, inner view, or as one of the graduates from Holon put it, “this is the place where I met unconditional love – Ahavat Hinam. Every well they encounter throughout their journey is a source of strength, and during the year the cross many of those.

We spend much of our life time in deserts. It is hot an unpleasant. Yesterday I parjed at a well of fresh water. Tomorrow, Saturday, I will meet from afar another source of fresh water when The Debbie Friedman Suite, arranged by Or Oren, is played in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We have met this music of life at Shefayim, in Boston, Utrecht, and Amsterdam. Next year it will be played again in Boston. Reaching each well is an opportunity to refresh, regain strength, as we encounter the sounds of music or meet the youth of our Movement. These graduates have made it through a year full of challenges that brought them to the end of this road, and now they will be moving to another well at another place, while we will be meeting a new group of enthusiastic youngsters eager to start once again a challenging year at the Mekhina. You can just begin to imagine how much pleasure, challenge, and fulfillment one gets from taking even a small part in this creation of the Reform Movement!

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 22 June 2018, 10 Tamuz, 5778

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