Monday, July 12, 2010

Learning from Suffering

Parshat Devarim

6 Av 5770 / July 16 - 17

Learning from Suffering

           This week’s parsha is Parshat Devarim. The portion recounts the story of the spies. When the Israelites left Egypt, God promised to bring the people into the land of Israel. Israelite spies were sent to scout out the land before they entered. All of the spies, except Caleb and Josuha, brought back negative reports. They claimed that the inhabitants were too strong and that the Israelites would not be able to succeed in a war. These actions showed distrust in God. Instead of accepting the land of Israel as a gracious gift, the people of Israel complained and were sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the desert.
            This Parsha is traditionally read on the Shabbos before Tisha B’ Av. As Tisha B’ Av approaches and I think about all of the terrible things that have happened to the people of Israel, I wonder why we choose to read this Parsha and remember that the people of Israel did not trust God.
            I am a strong believer in the idea of making your own fate. I am not one to wait around for things to happen me. I believe in being pro active. If I had been in the desert with Beni Yisrael, I am not so sure that I would have wanted to fight against the inhabitants of Israel. To me faith is not the idea that God will save me when I am in trouble. If someone I love were sick, I would surely want him or her to get treatment over waiting for God’s intervention. To me, faith is the idea that everything- bad or good- can teach us something. In the case of the spies, I think the people learned that they should accept God’s gifts.
            Perhaps we recognize this idea of faith in relation to Tisha B Av because of the challenge to faith that Tisha B’ Av presents. On Tisha’ B Av, we think about all of the terrible things that have happened to our people. It is hard to believe in a God that allows such bad things to happen. Instead of using Tisha B’ Av as time for only mourning, it could be beneficial to think about life lessons that can be taken from the suffering of the Jewish People, throughout history.
            On Tisha B’ Av, I spend a lot of time thinking about the Shoah. My grandparents were both survivors so I feel especially connected. I cannot fathom a reason that such a catastrophe would occur but I feel like I can learn by the immense loss about how lucky I am to practice Judaism freely. As this period of mourning culminates on Tisha B’ Av, I hope it can be a time filled with, not only the remembrance or our losses but also learning and having faith that even bad times are times where we can learn.

Naomi Wischnia
Moishe House Philly


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