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    Problems on the way – B’ha’alot’cha

    A person who was away on a journey needed a second opportunity to observe Pesach. Hence the Torah provided for a Pesach Sheni (Num. 9:9-13) designed for the benefit of “any of you or of your generations (who) shall be impure… or on a far journey”.

    Rabbi Me’ir of Lublin linked the two criteria and said it is often the strain of being on a journey that affects a person’s purity. When you are at home leading a stable, settled existence it is often easier to work on your soul. Travelling disrupts your stability and your mind is distracted.

    Does that mean that no-one should ever leave home, see the world, or experience new places, people and ideas?

    Probably not, but travelling brings its problems which have to be confronted and overcome. For the observant Jew they include keeping Shabbat and festivals, observing kashrut, saying one’s prayers, and maintaining one’s Jewish priorities.

    For me one of the challenges of recent travels was an Asian country where tourists visit so many ornate palaces that totally contrast with the poverty of the masses. My Jewish priorities made me ask questions – and warned me against making too many comments.

    Incidentally, when the guide asked me, “What is your second language?” and I said, “Hebrew”, he was so puzzled that I said, “You know, the language of the Bible”. It didn’t help.

    He had never heard of the Bible. Fortunately he had heard of Israel, though he knew nothing about Jews or Jewish history. When I filled in my email address on an information sheet, he saw the word “Rabbi”, but he thought it was my first name.

    That’s also one of the problems of travelling, to find that things that are second nature to your identity are completely strange to other cultures.

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