But sometimes it is a response to a call, and a call to respond.
I was incredibly proud to have written and shared this sermon last night.
I hope will be the beginning of a marching, movement and change.
42 Marches (Parashat Masa'i)
This week’s portion is called Masa’i. Masa’i means journeys or marches,and our parashais recounting the various stages of the Israelites’ journeyas they marched through the desert
stage by stage.
אֵ֜לֶּה מַסְעֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָצְא֛וּ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם
Eleh masa’i b’nai yisrael asher yaz’u mey-eretz mitzrayim
These were the marches of the Israelites who started out from the land of Egypt...Moses recorded the starting points of their various marches as directed by the Eternal. Their marches, by starting points, were as follows: They marched out from Rameses in the first month. . . The Israelites marched out from Rameses and encamped at Succoth.They marched out from Succoth and encamped at Etham. . .They marched out from Etham and turned about toward Pi-hahirotThey marched out from Pene-hahiroth and passed through the sea into the wilderness. . . and encamped at Marah.They marched out from Marah and came to Elim. . .They marched out from Elim and encamped by the Sea of Reeds.
On and on it goes. 42 two times the Israelites march from one place to the next. A journey of decades; A journey of becoming; Marching from slavery to freedom.
I went marching today.
I went up the mountain to march and to protest.
I went up the mountain to join white women and black women and all kinds of women, to march and to protest.
I went up the mountain to join men and to join those who don’t identify as women or as men, to march and to protest.
I went up the mountain to stand up with students and with community leaders to say NO! to gender-based violence; to rape; to the silencing of survivors.
I went up to march.
I joined in allowing my mouth to be taped up; In marching silently; In lying on the ground to help make a living-memorial to the victims. I took my body out to march today so that it could stand in for someone else’s body - for a woman who can no longer march.
I thought of her as I marched. I thought of the child – the young girl – marching in front of me with her mother, her mouth taped-up as well. Wondering how her mother had explained this moment to her. Lamenting a world where mothers have to teach their daughters such things. To warn them. To teach them. To bring them to march for the children who can no longer march for themselves.
I thought of the woman who stepped off the sidewalk to join the march – who hadn’t planned to march but was compelled, as we passed, to join us. She didn’t have a purple t-shirt that proclaimed “Survivor” or “Believe Survivors”, so I wondered which she was. What was it that moved her to step off the sidewalk and join us?
And all those others who did not step off the sidewalk to join us - I wondered about them too.
What compels us to march and what holds us back?
I thought about the many other marches I’ve been on, and I thought about those that I’ve missed - the times I didn’t march because I didn’t know a march was happening; Because I knew about it, but couldn’t afford the time or the travel to be in the place where it was happening; Because I knew about it, and could get there, but didn’t want to go alone; Because I knew about it but was too busy. Surely the number of marches I havenotbeen on far outnumber the times I have marched.
I am ashamed of this.
I am human AND I can do better.
42 times, the Israelites marched, from one place to the next.
42 times they mustered their strength and packed up their things and walked toward a place they did not know, but believed to be better than the place they had been.
When the Israelites marched out of Egypt they did not have a choice. It was a flight to freedom; It was a grab at survival.
They marched for themselves - victims hoping to become survivors; slaves hoping to become free.
42 times they marched. And somewhere along the journey they became strong. And somewhere along the journey they became free. And somewhere along the journey they marched because they chose to.
Many nations lived in that wilderness. The Israelites could have chosen to make camp there and stay. But they marched on – even when those that came out of Egypt were gone, when the ones who were marching didn’t know the place that they had come from any better than the place where they were going – they marched – to bring home the dreams of their parents. To build a new life; a new world.
42 times they marched. And I wonder: How many marches will we join this year? How many will we miss? Surely, in a year, I could march 42 times.Surely you could too.
Perhaps, we can make a commitment on this night, to march together; to tell one another when we hear of people marching; to invite one another so that none of us has to march alone. Could we march 42 times, together, to bring about a better world?
Commitment is something that we celebrate tonight with those who are on a different kind of journey – or maybe it’s not so different. In our midst is a group who have recently joined the journey of the Jewish people. They have stepped off of the sidewalk. They walk with us now.
This Shabbat – Shabbat Masa’i– the Shabbat of journeys – we welcome them. We celebrate their commitment to the Jewish people. And we thank them. It is not easy to become something new.
It is not easy to march to someplace you don’t know. It is not easy to march toward a place that feels so difficult to reach.
This is why we don’t understand the Israelites’ journey as one long march across space and time. We march. We stop. We rest. We grow. We march again.
I am inspired by the people I marched with today.
I am inspired by the friend who thought to invite me.
I am inspired by the survivors who shared their stories –
who march because they have to and because they need to
and because they also march for those who cannot.
I am inspired by the mother who thought to bring her daughter – who is raising her to march for justice.
I am inspired by the woman who followed her heart when it compelled her to change whatever plans she had had for herself that day – who marched with us instead.
I am inspired by the newest members of our Jewish community.
I am inspired by our Israelite ancestors.
42 times they marched. Surely we can march that much too.
That much, at the very least.
For even that, is only a beginning.
Kein Yehi Ratzon.May it be God’s Wil