<I>Chukat</I>: Are We There Yet?

As the people of Israel neared the Promised Land, after forty years of delay, there arose new, yet familiar, problems.

Aloh Naaleh,

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"And they journeyed from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom, and the soul of the people became impatient because of the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moshe saying... and our soul loathes this light bread [the manna]." (Numbers 21:4,5)

As the people of Israel neared the Promised Land, after forty years of delay, there arose new, yet familiar, problems. First, they became impatient and surly. The closer one gets to one's destination, the stronger the desire to get there already. Being so close makes what remains to be covered intolerably far (see the commentary of the Netziv).

That is the meaning of the text: "the people became impatient because of the way" - it was so near, yet looked so distant. In such a situation, one is in danger of saying and doing foolish things.

Then, they announced that they "loathed" the wondrous manna that had nourished them for forty years. But this, too, was connected with the fact that they were fast approaching the Promised Land. They said: This light bread was adequate during our long "abnormal" existence in the wilderness, where we enjoyed Divine protection. Now, however, as we are about to enter the real world and became responsible for our security and economic will being, perhaps this "light bread" is too "spiritual" to provide the extra energy (just as the developing infant begins to find his mother's milk inadequate; Netziv).

So too, in our own generation. After fifty-eight years of kibbutz galuyot and Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisroel, we are drawing closer to the Promised Redemption. And once again, we have become impatient. In our desire to "get there already" some have resorted to violence and turned against the State. This is foolish and dangerous.

Others who are still in Galut should perhaps begin to question the attitudes they have been "fed" for so long. Perhaps these were adequate for the "abnormal" existence during the long Exile, but they have failed to provide the spiritual fibre and balanced outlook needed to respond properly to the new reality, which is Atchalta D'geula - "the beginning of the sprouting of our Redemption."
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Rabbi Shubert Spero writes from Jerusalem.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.



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