Of all the Mosaic books, the Book of Numbers is a book for our times. Not least, because in reviewing its narratives, it speaks right to the heart of what it means to be human susceptible to getting it wrong and making mistakes. So true is this, that even the greatest of all leaders, namely, Moses himself, made mistakes, most notably when God instructed him to speak to the rock, an order which he disobeyed, and for which he was later punished. But what is it about the human condition that causes us to make errors of judgement leading us to making mistakes?
There is a key verse which appears in the third paragraph of the Shema which I think speaks to the matter. Speaking of the thread of blue in the tzitzit, the verse reads: (Num. 15:39) “when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and not follow after your own “heart” and your own “eyes” . Note the strange order. Normally we would expect it to be the other way around, first the eye sees, and only then does the heart desire. In reversing the order, the Torah is telling us to protect our emotions and feelings, in order that we do not distort our perception, a prelude for getting it wrong and making mistakes. I sometimes wonder how it is that nonJews see the beauty of our faith, whilst some of us who were born into the faith, are simply unmoved. Put simply, the way we feel about our Judaism, will shape, or distort our perception of it.
Much of Judaism is about the shape and structure of our togetherness. Ours is a religion of community. Our holiest prayers can only be said in the presence of a minyan, the minimum definition of a community. When we pray, we do so as a community. At times, it does feel as though we are bowling alone!! I would encourage you all to make an effort to attend our services now and then. This is especially important while we continue to say Kaddish for Nick of blessed memory.
As your spiritual leader, I remain committed to ensuring that our hearts are filled with a sense of Judaism that is both relevant and meaningful to all. So that I am able to continue to best serve you in this respect, I would be delighted to receive any comments or suggestions which you might consider relevant, especially as it relates to your own religious experience with us.