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What A Mess?!? – (Bemidbar, May 2014)

My garage is a disaster right now. Between planting the garden, helping a friend with a building project, upgrading kids rooms with new beds (which means the old beds live in the garage until they are sold) and the usual collection of bric-a-brac that resides in it … my garage (have I mentioned?) is a disaster. Now, most people who know me (and definitely those who live with me) would not consider me a neat freak by any means. Still, this level of disorder unseats and unsettles me. It frustrates me and makes me impatient with the other contributors to the mess. It inhibits my creativity (the garage is where I do most of my woodworking). In a small, but not insignificant way it makes my home base feel a little less homey.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bemidbar … the Israelites are being ordered and organized for their march through the wilderness to the Promised Land. I imagine that this collection of stubborn, unruly  and recently liberated slaves had the potential to mythically resemble the state of my garage. Perhaps it is for this reason that they are given very mundane, specific instructions – tribe by tribe and person by person – where and how to stand and with what implements and adornments. Apparently, reaching the Promised Land needs some level of order and even discipline.

The Etz Hayim Torah commentary explains these machinations in this fashion:
  • “Many commentators note the details here of tribal encampments as a way of emphasizing the need for order and organization in achieving a spiritual life. Simcha Zissel Ziv writes: “A person disorderly in behavior is also confused in thought, incapable of stable, consistent work.””

Or stated differently, how we order the physical impacts the spiritual. And perhaps, too, how we order the physical reflects the spiritual. The various aspects of we human animals (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) do not live in separate silos from one another. They exist, interact and react in a rich, complex web. It is web of connectedness the we ignore at own peril and embrace with the possibility of profound growth and meaning.

It’s time for me clean my garage.

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