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Emerging from the Wilderness

05/26/2020 08:29:12 AM


by Rabbi Joshua Lesser

Take a census of the whole Israelite community by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head. (Numbers 2:1)

As we begin the book of Numbers with a census, it's intriguing to note that while it states that the aim is to account for the entirety of the Israelites community, in actuality it is the men. Presumably, the male head of the household was assumed to represent the entire group.

If you have ever been on any margin in the Jewish community because of sex, gender, race, orientation, political view, class, age, denomination, ethnicity, ability..., then you likely know the deep pain of being made invisible because someone else is presumed to represent you.

And while I will not pretend that how we open up our Jewish spiritual, religious, educational and cultural institutions is simple; indeed it is very complex, I do not see enough rigor in asking who is left behind or what that experience feels like. I fear that too many people are cast as irrelevant or problematic to require that those on the mainstream carry a share of the burden of waiting so it is safer for an equitable approach. This requires understanding how our lives and experiences are interconnected spiritually, politically, and communally.

This takes into mind prioritizing collective responsibility, compassion, forbearance, and humility.

My life is bound with so many others that I do not want to emerge into our opening up without them and appreciate deeply when someone understands my importance enough not to open up without me.

To the Jewish community everywhere, there have been too many ways we operate by mistaking the whole for the mainstream.

Let us make the hard complicated choices to ensure that as many of us can emerge from the wilderness of this pandemic as possible. And that we do not leave people behind or worse endanger them by opening up too early because of what we miss now. Otherwise, what is temporary may become permanent.

Mon, May 10 2021 28 Iyyar 5781