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Becoming the people they need to be

06/19/2019 01:34:01 PM


Kim Bodemer

The Israelites are at it again. In this week’s Torah portion, Behaalotcha, they complain, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!” [Numbers 11:4-6].
It seems surprising that they are nostalgic for their life in Egypt. According to the Torah narrative, two years have passed since receiving the commandments at Mount Sinai. How could the Israelites’ memory of slavery have faded to the point that they would be thinking of it nostalgically?
In his report, “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” Alan R. Hirsch states that nostalgia is a yearning for an idealized past - a screen memory…a combination of many different memories, all integrated together with all the negative emotions filtered out. Perhaps this is what was going on for our Biblical ancestors - they were frightened and uncertain of their future. The memory of the bitterness they endured was replaced with the longing for the certain, which in this case is the food they once ate. Our tradition tells the transformational story of how the Israelites go from slavery to freedom – from Egypt to Israel, by way of “Bamidbar,” the wilderness. As readers of this powerful story, we know that they encounter many stumbles along the way and that this will not be the last time they complain on their journey. They take a circuitous route to give them time to evolve and learn - becoming the people they need to be, in order to successfully enter The Land.
Kim Bodemer is the Temple Shalom Senior Director of Education and Youth Engagement.

Wed, November 13 2019 15 Cheshvan 5780