This week's Torah portion is the final section of the 4th Book of the Torah, and next week we begin the 5th, and final book. You might have thought that if the Five Books of Moses together tell us the story of the Exodus from Egypt to Israel, that we would naturally be 4/5 of the way there, with only 1/5 of the journey left until we reach the finish line. Well, you'd be wrong. The Israelites actually reach the end of their marching THIS weekend, and the 5th book is basically just Moses enjoying the sound of his own voice (no offense, Moses).
And as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, our reading this week looks back at their entire journey, and basically lists (in regrettably monotonous fashion...) all the places they've stopped. So what do we make of this travel log, this trip down memory lane shared between the Israelites, God, and the reader? Well, for one thing, it reminds us how quickly time flies.
Is it just me, or does it already feel like the summer's nearly over? How did that happen so quickly? How am I already preparing for the High Holidays, and we're all starting to talk about baseball playoffs? Because life does this to us. We blink too quickly, and suddenly seasons have passed, new neighborhoods have been built,
and children stare at us blankly when we make pop-culture references from our childhood. And apparently, the same predicament befell the Israelites. Right now they have stopped at the border to Canaan and are marveling at how far they've come, how many places they've lived in, and how distant slavery and Egypt have rapidly become. "Ah, it seems like only yesterday I tasted my first bite of manna... and now I swear I'll never look at the stuff again, the moment I set foot in Jerusalem and find a good shawarma place!"
In all seriousness, it is nice to see that even the ancient Israelites felt that time moved quickly, and that it was important to stop and take stock every once in a while. I have always loved the John Lennon quote, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." We do often get distracted by day-to-day minutia, and forget to look up and appreciate the world as it whizzes by us. But you know what? Summer isn't over just yet. Right now seems like a very good time to stop lamenting, enjoy the moment, and reflect on how far we've come in life. And for those of us heading off to Israel, it's also high time to find that really good shawarma place!