“Torah is the book with no end, supporting our understanding of what it means to be a vehicle for the Spirit of Creation.”
Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah
Torah portion for the week of May 19 - 25, 2013
(Numbers 8:1 - 12:15)
A healing response to complaining
It is remarkable how much of our time we spend complaining. We complain about others, about our world, and about ourselves. So much of our inner and outer dialogue is filled with complaining that most of us have become experts.
This is a parashah with much complaining as well. In our ancient wilderness, we often complained about the food. In response to our complaints, we received life-giving manna. But then we complained again, imagining past feasts in Egypt where we had been enslaved.
"If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat for free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!" (11:4 - 6)
We glorified a terribly repressive past, and lost the wonders of the moment to our complaining.
It is in this Torah portion that Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses. They voiced their unhappiness to each other about his wife, a Cushite woman, and gossiped their disapproval. In the story, God appeared in a pillar of cloud to intervene, telling Miriam and Aaron their criticism was unacceptable, and striking Miriam with a disfiguring skin disease.
Aaron turned for help to Moses, appealing on behalf of his sister Miriam. Moses' response was immediate:
"El na refa na lah -- Please, God, please heal her now." (12:13)
One might have expected Moses to support the punishment for Miriam, since she spoke against him. But he does not. He prays for her healing.
Moses teaches us that the pains associated with our complaining end not through outer change but through deep healing. Our complaints often hide the hurt we are experiencing. So a meaningful response to our complaining might well be, "What hurts?" then, "Let us do what we can to bring healing." Our complaining simply reflects our own stories; our pain reflects the suffering we bring upon ourselves through that complaining.
The specific words of prayer that Moses spoke are familiar to us because we still use them today in prayer and in song. As a focus for meditation, the words "El na refa na lah" carry a deep energy of healing and wholeness: Please, God, let healing be now.
I am aware of my complaining.
I discover the pain behind my complaining.
I welcome energies of healing.
The things I habitually complain about include. . .
When I look at the pain behind my complaints, I discover. . .
If I released all my complaining, I would find. . .
Photo: Mark Reden