What does it mean for us to map the ‘terrain of the soul’? What can we learn from these symbolic geographies of Canaan and Sodom?
I went to see Gusti today. The hospice people told Gusti’s daughter “final days.” Gusti looked comfortable when I saw her, quiet and small and breathing well. No IV, no tubes, no oxygen. Just her face, soft and old, and her skin, thin and crinkly. She looked like she could open her eyes at any moment and smile, but she could not hear us and seemed to be starting a trip, an inward trip across an ocean.
There’s a healthy amount of trepidation I feel as a Rabbi preaching a sermon on medical issues in a congregation with plenty of doctors. So this is my obligatory disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Any advice dispensed from the bimah is not valid medical advice. This is where my rabbinic authority ends.
When the Torah tells us to ‘sh’lach l’cha’ or ‘lech l’cha’, to send from ourselves or go into ourselves, as in the case of Abraham’s calling, we know that something transformational is about to happen.
Over the years, I’ve grown fonder of Numbers. Called ‘Bamidbar’ or ‘in the wilderness’ in Hebrew, there is something untamed about its stories. This is the book in which the Israelites become unhinged. Complaint follows complaint, rebellion follows rebellion. It’s a brilliant study of human nature and group dynamics. In Parashat Beha’a lot’cha, we are starting to see the cracks.
In 1930 Solomon Gandz claimed that Incas and Hebrews had invented in parallel, on separate continents, a common root of all literacy: knotted cord records. Gandz’s conjecture isn’t taken seriously today. Yet neither was it foolish of Gandz to wonder how threads and knots became a way to declare truths without words – and why knotted threads convince and compel us (and the Incas) in a way that seems self-evidently powerful.