(Torah Portion Naso) Was I Dreaming?
On our recent flight back from Israel we were seated in front of a group of 13 years olds who were coming back from a two-week, school sponsored trip to Israel.
When the stewardess was handing out the customs forms to be filled out, one of the chaperones instructed the students to fill out their names and addresses. Since she was holding onto the passports, she told them to leave their passport numbers blank and she would fill it in.
A few minutes later I overheard the chaperone say to one of the students, “What do you mean you don’t know your address?”
A little while later I turned to the chaperon and asked if I heard correctly. Did a 13 year old did not know his address? She said, “Yes, you heard correctly!” I asked if he had recently moved. “No, he has lived there all his life together with his parents.”
We shared the same amazed reaction.
Wondering how this could have happened, I guessed that this boy never paid attention to the number on his home or street and never had to fill out a form which required his address, nor did his parents ever take the time to review his address with him for safety precautions.
This incident is certainly way out of the ordinary. But it made me think. All of us from our earliest age are made aware of the address of our home, our physical abode, in case we may get lost, but how about our spiritual address? If we get lost and need directions, where do we turn?
In this week’s Parsha the Torah describes how each of the twelve princes of the Tribes of Israel donated and presented identical offerings during the Temple’s inauguration. It is interesting that the Torah describes the princes of the tribes as, “The heads of their fathers’ household.”
Their fathers’ household is reference to the original twelve sons of our forefather Yaacov.
The Torah also refers to the totality of the Jewish people as Bais Yisroel – the house of Israel.
A Jews’ spiritual address is being linked to his ancestors – the clear and unbroken chain to our roots.
On the first day of Shavuos, we read the Torah portion of G-d proclaiming the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Before the awesome event, Moshe is instructed by G-d to relay the mandate to Bais Yaacov – the house of Jacob. Our Sages teach us that Bais Yaacov is a reference to the women – the women were highlighted because of their essential and vital role in inculcating an unwavering belief in G-d and instilling the positive spiritual energy of our traditions into the minds of their children from infancy on.
When I was in ninth grade, we had a math teacher who was a devout Catholic. One day, some of my classmates had a religious debate/discussion with him. At some point he made the following statement, “Well, we really don’t know for sure who the real G-d is.”
This statement threw me for a loop, it was the first time I was challenged to prove that my religion was correct. I knew deep down that it was; that’s how I was raised, taught, educated and practiced, but I did not know how to prove it or articulate it, not only to the teacher, but even to myself.
Thank G-d, I had an address where I felt comfortable to turn. My father. I related to him my dilemma that was precipitated by the statement of the teacher. My father patiently, proficiently and logically coached me through a series of facts gleaned from our Torah, tradition and history that unequivocally proved the existence of an Omnipotent All Knowing G-d.
Interestingly there was nothing astoundingly new to me regarding the basic information my father shared with me. He spoke of our miraculous Exodus from Egypt and G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai, events that have been celebrated without pause for thousands of years and are supported and backed by our Torah, which has been flawlessly and directly transmitted to us. All this I had already known. It was looking at the events and information through his perspective that clearly pointed to G-d’s involvement and control of these monumental events. This clearly proved G-d’s existence and the Divine mandate of His Torah.
So when we feel lost, challenged or confused about our beliefs and values – we should know that there is an address out there where we can turn to for clarity. Whether it is one’s father, mother, mentor, teacher, book or rabbi – we are encouraged to ask and inquire – and don’t worry – it is not the same as not knowing your home address.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks