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Homeless Nomads?

Friday, 17 July, 2020 - 9:11 am

Summer is a time to enjoy the outdoors. A favorite activity in Idaho is camping.

No matter the setup – whether you are in an RV or a tent – you are away from home. The amenities that you usually depend on are often unavailable.

The amazing reality is that, when camping, people usually are excited about things that they would complain about at home. At home you might complain about sleeping in a sleeping bag or having to collect firewood to warm yourself. But, when camping it’s a fun activity.

Obviously, attitude has a lot to do with it. The beauty of the great outdoors that Hashem has given us has a lot to do with it.

But, perhaps there is something else as well. Knowing that this is only temporary makes it a lot easier. If I had to walk a few minutes to use a vault toilet every day, I might not be thrilled. But, because I know that I have a secure, comfortable home to come back to – it makes it a tolerable – or even fun – trip instead of a difficult task.

But, imagine for a moment what a homeless person must feel like. Every day those challenges are real. They continue unabated. They are an unfortunate way of life.

In fact, the Talmud affirms this contrast by stating: “Every person who has no land (to build on) is not a person.” Just the knowledge that you have land to build a home, makes a world of difference.

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In this week’s parsha Matot-Masei, we find the Jewish people in a similar situation.

For forty years they wandered in the desert. They encamped and decamped. Again and again.

How did they feel? Like campers reveling on a great excursion? Or like vagabonds, desperate for stability?

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In this week’s parsha we also find G-d’s instructions to the Jewish people to conquer the land of Israel, “for I have given you the land to possess it.”

In Rashi’s very first comment on the Torah (back in Bereishit/Genesis 1:1), he explains (based on the Midrash) that the Torah begins with the description of Creation, “so that if the nations of the world will say to the people of Israel, “You are thieves, for you have conquered the lands of seven nations,” they will reply to them: “The entire world is G‑d’s; He created it, and He gives it to whomever he desires. It was His desire to first give it to them, and by His desire it was taken from them and given to us.”

The Jewish people were not coming to conquer a strange land. They were coming to conquer their own land. This was the land that G-d had promised them. This was the land that their great-grandparents had lived in. This was the land that G-d had designated to them from the beginning of time.

They may have been wandering in the desert, but they were not homeless. They were en-route to their own home, in Israel.

Today, as well, we are on a journey. A spiritual journey.

A Jew might find herself uneasy in a synagogue, because she does not frequent it enough (nowadays due to covid-19, it’s a luxury to be able to attend!). A Jew might sigh in the supermarket aisle because he feels out of place when so many products are not kosher. A Jewish couple may feel worried that other parents send their children to free public school, but they must pay for private Jewish education. A Jewish child might balk at wearing a kippah, when all the neighbors don’t.

In all these situations, we might feel like we are transient. Like we are homeless.

The truth, however, is that we are not at all homeless. The Master Landlord, Who is in control of all real estate, has already designated a home – and a mandate – for us. In fact, it was the original plan for us at the moment the world began.

Because we have a home – both spiritual and physical – we ought to always feel empowered to do what’s right. And, to yearn for the day when we can fully enjoy the glory of our home – with the coming of Moshiach.

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