Life can often be quite difficult. Who among us has not had to contend, at times, with the tentacles of darkness? Whether it be tangible enemies, driven by violence, hate, envy and greed, or psychological demons and fears … whether it be emotional losses and betrayals, or pain and suffering due to health and other frailties, or the basic dangers that lurk about … much of life can present quite a daunting challenge.
This week’s Torah reading, in a cryptic section consisting of two verses – which we recite to this day every time the ark is opened in the synagogue – provides us with a relevant answer and a practical approach to facing life’s difficulties:
When the Ark [of the Covenant] went forth, Moses said, “Arise, O God, and scatter your enemies! Let your foes flee before You!” When it came to rest, he said, “Return, O God, the myriads of Israel’s thousands!”
These two verses capture the challenging story of our lives. Despite life’s hardships, we do not come unarmed. The Ark of the Covenant (i.e. the Torah) leads the way, and in its wake enemies are scattered and foes flee. The Torah – called the “Torah of life” and the “Torah of light” – illuminates the dark and lonely paths of existence and empowers us with direction, fortitude and commitment to make it through the most challenging experiences of life.
This is a two-part sermon:
Part I: “The Armament that is Torah” examines these verses and provides a practical approach to facing hardships.
Part II: “The Mysterious Brackets” goes farther, exploring the kabbalistic/mystical view of the above.