Parshat Hukkat and the Long Journey

Parshat Hukkat and the Long Journey

Yesterday,, the school my son attends held its High School graduation. Students who graduate The Village School are generally emotional and demonstrative about their achievements. For many of them, Village School represents the kind of nurturing, safe and comfortable environment they never before experienced in any school. At Village there is less pressure to conform; each student is embraced for his/her individual personality and style. As an unconventional school both academically and socially, Village is not for everyone. Although certain universities still look askance at non-conformist high schools; many students at Village can hold their own academically with their peers elsewhere. Village may be lacking in extra curricular programs, but the school can boast about a gifted set of teachers, who create a learning atmosphere which is creative, challenging and unique.

For some of the graduates, the road leading to yesterday’s accomplishment was long and occasionally uncertain. Unlike many students in the Great Neck system, their path toward graduation was sometimes uneven. Consequently, each Village graduate takes pride in completing the journey through twelfth grade.

Most journeys through life, whether for high schoolers or adults of any age, are marked by obstacles and rough roads. For whatever route we select there will be unexpected delays and detours. Especially for those of us who grow up with the comforts and entitlements enjoyed in relatively affluent communities; any obstacles is a shock to our system. Obstructions of any kind may lead to frustration, anger, disappointment, disillusionment and even despair. In our portion of Hukkat, the wandering Israelites encounter all of the above. True, they arrived as liberated slaves, who did not enjoy the comforts of Eypgt. Yet, they feel a sense of entitlement by virtue of their freedom. In the desert, however, each roadblock becomes a source of despair. They are vocal about hunger and thirst to the point where they long for the good old days of Egypt. They are startled by the local chieftains who prefer war rather than allowing the Israelites a free ticket to pass through their territories. Throughout their peregrinations they discover that the path to Canaan will be neither smooth nor unblemished. There are no guaranteed entitlements in their future. Life will be demanding.

Although the path to Canaan will be arduous, that is not necessarily a bad thing. A little bit of challenge makes the journey both more meaningful and more desirable. When they do finally enter the Land of Israel, they will be better prepared for their life ahead.

As many of our students graduate high school this week, we wish them much success on their upcoming journeys. I hope their paths will lead to success; but I also hope that they will be prepared to encounter and to overcome the thorn bushes which will inevitably arise. Conquering those obstacles may leave an occasional scar; but they will appreciate their accomplishments that much more.

Major Themes in this week’s portion:

  • The big journey from Egypt to Canaan continues in earnest
  • Miriam dies
  • Kvetch: The people complain about no water
  • Moses loses it: He attacks the rock from which water will flow
  • Moses ignores a command to ‘speak’ to the rock/he must die in the desert
  • Moses asks permission to pass peacefully through Edom: DENIED
  • First Miriam then Aaron: Moses’ big brother breathes his last
  • Another kvetch: The people prefer Egypt to dying in the miserable desert

Question of the Week: After the people complain about water, God commands Moses to speak to a water-providing rock. Because (in anger) Moses struck the rock, he will not enter Canaan.
After all he has endured is this punishment truly just?

For more information about these intriguing subjects, join us this Shabbat morning for our regular service. We begin at 9:30 am.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Klayman


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