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Friday's Sermon: Miracles in the Desert

In this week’s Torah portion we start hearing about the dark side of the Wilderness journeys of Israelites on their march towards freedom in their home land. The Israelites had been taken away from the only place they’ve known as home for the last 400 years and are led out into new and strange territory with nothing more than a promise. The grumbling has begun.

Reading about it now, about 3000 years later, we have to wonder why. The Israelites had seen plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and the Egyptians while they themselves remained untouched. They had been led out of Egypt, protected by a cloud and pillar of fire, watching the Sea of Reeds split open to allow them through only to be closed upon the Egyptian special forces. They had spent time in the Wilderness fed by manna, a perfect food, and quenched by water appearing almost out of nowhere.

So what’s the problem now? They wanted meat. Meat, or more appropriately animal flesh, in the way of quail, was provided. The grumbling, however, continued.

The obvious answer is G-d provides, why grumble? Maybe not exactly at the moment we think we need it…it’s not like we sit down to eat a meal, fork and knife in place, plate in front of us saying, “OK, HaShem, we’re ready. Send down that manna anytime”. No, life is a little more complicated than that.

Three times per day in our “Amidah”, we thank HaShem for the daily miracles He provides. But does He? Does G-d intervene in our lives to help us as He did to our grumbling ancestors so long ago? Consider that He does. Proof? Israel.

Anti-Semitic incidents are up over the last two years. Israel is being shelled and attacked almost constantly by an enemy who was given land 13 years ago in exchange for a peace that never happened. To boot, the world is siding with the aggressors, somehow concluding that Israel is the true aggressor going after innocent civilians when by all accounts the reverse is reality.

Despite all this, sympathy towards Jews is actually up. Israel remains triumphant having the developed the technology and weaponry to fend off attacks and be victorious. And many municipalities are taking measures to fight the PR barrage to economically make Israel a pariah nation.

Yes, the miracles are happening. Israel has been involved in yet another war, or skirmish, or conflict…whatever we can call it. They got over a war in 2014, and that’s only because it actually broke out. That’s not including the almost daily individual attacks on its citizens.

Add to that the constant barrage of condemnation from the UN and the world. Israel is the only country in the world that doesn’t get to choose its own capital. Whatever Israel does to defend itself, it’s using excessive force.

And yet Israel survives and thrives.

Israel takes in wounded from…Gaza. Israel has this thing where they seem to have to be the first on the scene of any disaster. They have even fought with countries that hate them to bring in the most experienced relief teams in the world to help victims.

So I guess we’ve learned our lesson, haven’t we? It may have taken 3000 years, but if you see scenes of people hanging out in cafes in Tel Aviv, these seem to be the happiest people in the world. They seem to be enjoying life.

These are the miracles that we enjoy. Some of them are simple, daily. Some are more pronounced.

We can even go so far as to appreciate our own little synagogue out here in the middle of nowhere. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but we’ve survived and we’re still here. Whenever things here look bleak, something happens and we’ve back on our feet.

Consider this our version of manna in the desert and water wells just when we need them. It’s hard sometimes to see this as we get so entrenched in our daily lives. This is why it’s good to stop and look around and not just look, but see what’s going on around us. (Shabbat Services plug).

Let’s remember to take stock of the daily miracles in our own lives.

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