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    In & out of the wilderness – B’midbar

    The Book we open this Shabbat is Numbers in English, B’midbar in Hebrew. The Hebrew title means “In the Wilderness”.

    Jewish and human history have always oscillated between Wilderness and Promised Land. Sometimes the dichotomy is between Diaspora and Israel – the one symbolising ambiguity, the other identity. Sometimes it is between Sturm und Drang and the sunshine after the storm. Sometimes the pendulum wings between persecution – even in one’s own land – and freedom.

    There is both tragedy and triumph in the dichotomy. The tragedy is when someone gets so used to the wilderness that they come to terms with it and no longer yearn to break free. The triumph is to continue to believe even when it is hard. A now famous inscription found on the wall of a cellar in Cologne where Jews hid from the Nazis reads:
    I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
    I believe in love even when not feeling it.
    I believe in God even when He is silent.

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