May and June comprise the season of graduations. All across our fair land commencement exercises dot the landscape. Witnessing lengthy processions, we eagerly watch as our special someone takes her or his steps along with uncountable others. Four years (or more), are now concluded in the blink of an eye and as our posterity step forward we look to a new future brimming with excitement, potential and uncertainty. A daughter’s or grandson’s or nephew’s past career ends and a future begins with one short stroll across a dais.
This week all Jews the world over commence the last book of Torah. Devarim in Hebrew ( Deuteronomy being a Greek name), consists of a number of speeches by Moses. HIs opening speech begins with these words;
“It is eleven days journey from Sinai to the border point named Kadesh nearly abutting Canaan.”
Why did it take 40 years to travel 11 days’ worth of distance? Jokingly, we might answer that Moses was a male and he refused to ask someone for directions. The Torahitic answer is that the Israelites lost faith in themselves and in G-d after the 10 scouts shared a demoralizing and frightening message about the difficulties which lay ahead. In short, the Children of Israel were afraid of their future. They couldn’t see themselves as walking confidently into the next phase of their lives. Unlike our graduates, they did not feel prepared by their teachers and parents and were therefore unwilling and incapable of trusting in their skills and talents.
We adults have much to be proud of when it comes to our graduates. We have marshaled our best efforts to support and guide them as they begin their next steps. We have trained them to think, to problem-solve, to care, to love and to work. Hopefully, we have inculcated within them self-confidence that they may confront the challenges yet to be.
We can still share one more lesson with our graduates even as we take it to heart for ourselves; have faith. Recognize that God is walking with us and escorting us into the unknown. God wants us to succeed, to mature and to achieve. God wants us to rise up after falling and dust ourselves off. God approached Abraham and said ‘Walk for yourself to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1), indicating that God is escorting us personally along our own life paths. The word ‘ for yourself’ in Hebrew emphasizes that each us must stand up and move forward individually. In this week’s Parshah Moses reminds our ancestors (and us) that God wants the best for the People of Israel as it communally steps forward and makes its way into a new future.