A Bissel Torah: Yisro: Travels and Travails


By:  Suri Davis


I’m tired.  I want to make early shabbos—starting Wednesday afternoon.  Hehehehe

There is a lot to say about the ten commandments in this week’s torah portion, but I’d rather take a broader approach this week.

I had some time at NY Law School before class started and I was reviewing the parsha, when one of my students approached and saw me engrossed in learning the parsha.  He asked what language the book was in and I told him Hebrew and explained to him about how the Torah was sectioned off in weekly portions.

It seems that he always wondered what was in “the five books of Moses,” so I told him about the 613 commandments.  He thought there were only ten, and we discussed the ten…

But as I sat back and thought about The Five Books of Moses, I realized the first book, Genesis, sets forth the ancestry and birth of our forefathers and the birth of monotheism, and the other four books took place during the course of a forty year journey, where the Jewish nation was established, until their mission was accomplished, arriving at the doorstep of their homeland, Israel, which occurs in the book of Joshua.

Four books of journeying.  So many pages written about the forty years in the desert.  Why were the 613 commandments set forth in the desert on a journey, rather than, let’s say, G-d keeps the Jews encamped for forty years at Mount Sinai, and has Moses teach them the Torah in a classroom setting, rather than in a journey through the desert setting?

Travels and travails.  After being on yeshiva break last week, this week was filled with emergency clients.  I am fascinated by each client’s story, the story of their lives, each unique, like a fingerprint, each journey different, each journey hand-picked by G-d.

Thirty years of lawyering has given me a bird’s eye multi-generational view into people’s lives.  This week had some cases that had some surprising insertions in people’s life trajectories.  From day to day, one never knows.

Spending four books on how G-d took us through the desert, provided not only for our needs, but for our wants as well, gave us verbal lessons on life, but also very painful experiential lessons in life, that is the broad message.  Our life is a journey.  We learn on the road.  We move from place to place, day to day, and if we are smart, we learn our lessons easily.

When we are infants, we cannot even hold up our own heads.  Over time, we do.  Then we carry the weight of our own bodies, then we can walk and hold smaller/lighter items, then heavier boxes, young children, older children, a household.  Physical muscle building, emotional muscle building, spiritual muscle building.

We spend one portion of our lives developing our Jewish identity and learning, and with our young development, we spend the remainder of our lives on our journey, having the Torah, as our guide as to how to navigate and process our journey.  From now until our completion of this torah cycle on Simchat Torah, every day and every week we study the Jewish journey, and how to apply it to our own journey.

Shabbat shalom.


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