Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

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Wandering in the Wilderness: A Summer Devar Torah

A Comment on Parashiyot Mattot-Masei

Shabbat Morning at Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel
26 Tammuz 5760 – 29 July 2000


These are the stages of the children of Israel, by which they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the hand of Moses and Aaron. And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of the Lord; and these are their stages at their goings forth. And they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month….

The Torah moves from one topic to another, from one literary type to another, from narrative, to biography, to genealogy, to law code, to travelog, to prophecy, to poetry, seemlessly, naturally, using the most delightful and challenging literary forms.

(Later, the Talmud, the collection of Aramaic jargon and early rabbinic legal texts, replete with stories, arguments, deliberations and recipes, goes a step further in mixing literary types, almost a stream of consciousness.)

As readers we are challenged to connect the pieces into a coherent whole. It is said that in the Book of Psalms there is no connection between one chapter and the next; in the Book of Proverbs, between one verse and the next; and in the Book of Job, between one word and the next. To make sense of it we must impose our own mental maps on the text, or, to say it the other way around, try to fit the texts into our preexisting modes of thinking.

The travelog referenced here is just an outline of our journey; the names of places meant to honor or evoke the memory of significant places on a significant journey and the significant events that, well, “took place” at those places.

As we name those places we reflect on the events and recall our leader Moshe and the sermon on the Mount of Olives, dates, fig newton Gingrich elected officers and members of the Board of Alderman of the City of New Haven Ravens and doves and hawks souvenirs in the market forces of good and evil shall be destroyed forever.

The direction we choose life and liberty and justice for all as one and only the very best of New Haven Advocate on behalf of the people united will never be defeated in battle mode, mean, range of opinions mean nothing ventured nothing gained a few pounds over the summer of discontent.

Finding meaning in our sacred cows and sheep to the slaughter of innocents challenges our minds over matter of fact and fiction, biography, reference.

We experience our world wide web-footed platypus swimming in the pool table the motion picture of perfection.

Interpreting a dance studio audience with the Pope requires of us to impose order in the court of public opinion means nothing ventured nothing lost my mind your own business degree.

It is a metaphor- or five-dollars-an-hour long and short of it is what you make of it. The memories flow back up your harddisk drive at a safe distance between two points of view of the sound and the fury of a woman scorned.

It is a great religious miracle that our brains can organize the workers of the world trade organization of petroleum exporting countries liberated from slavery in Egypt Air flight 800 pound gorilla warriors.

Even after 3,500 years, the places mentioned in our Torah reading between the lines at the gas station wagon train children to carry guns and butter side up the down staircase to heaven help us.

Are there any questions and answer the phone is busy until tomorrow the sun will rise and shine my shoes.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Tilsen will soon be leaving for summer vacation.


© Jon-Jay Tilsen August 2000

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