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Shabbat Manna…

Dear Friends,

During this time of constant crisis — we are all in for a wild ride that surely tries the hearts of men.

And because this time the whole thing just feels too real, too hurtful, and just too much more than what we can all grin and bear it — lets write down some history for those who’ve come before us, in order to tell the ones who have yet to come some stout truths of faith, trust and deliverance.

So as I sit down to draft this week’s message, I hope & pray that you, your family, and all your people are okay, or at least weathering this current wave of the pandemic, terror, and malaise, with a measure of grace, honor and as much ease as possible, in the midst of this greatly impoverishing and humiliating situation for our health, for our national wellbeing and for our divided and polarized economy that has truly divided us all into the haves and the have-nots. 

I already know so many of you who have been sick and tired, isolated and persecuted, and those of you who are deathly sick with any number of Covid viral strains — I beseech you to keep calm and carry on. As for those of you quarantining yourselves because of viral exposure, or like so many others You are dealing with unemployment, isolation, poverty, lack of everything including human contact, children affected by school closures, work disruptions, mental health challenges, and abject fear — you have my love, my sympathy and my support. 

You have my support because I feel what you feel, and thus I want you to know that am routing for you and that the whole of our community and our support scheme is still active, alive, and fairly intact; and indeed we are all moving through these turbulent times together. 

So if you need support of any kind — please don’t hesitate to reach out through the Lincoln party office to me directly.

And now this week comes to a close as the Sabbath is upon us so it feels like we are offered an abundance of themes to highlight … so many that it almost feels like drinking from a cataract.  

Because this is the week that we will also pause to remember the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, as we continue engaging in the struggle for civil rights through our daily struggle for equal voting rights, for prison sentence reform and for criminal justice.

Even with all of these difficulties, am certain that you will seek and find many opportunities to engage life, liberty and our people — all of them — in the full measure of our being. And hopefully you shall devote a full measure of your trust in God, because I am convinced that “this too shall pass.” 

Yet because now I want to direct our focus to a different section in our yet to be written book — we shall borrow from the Bible this following verse.

“After the Israelites cross the sea and find themselves in the wilderness, God sends manna to feed the hungry people. The Torah or the Old Testament, introduces the manna like this: “In the morning, there was a fall of dew about the camp. When the fall of dew lifted, there, over the surface of the wilderness, lay a fine and flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ (‘man hu?’) – for they did not know what it was.”

Exodus 16:13-15 goes on to explain — and midrashim and commentaries abound on these themes — that manna is a magical food. It will sustain each person according to their individual needs and tastes; it will last longer on Shabbat than on other days of the week; it can be gathered but not hoarded

Manna and Quail delivered to the starving people of Israel:

16 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an “omer” for each person you have in your tent.’”

17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two “omers” for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”

24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”

27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”

33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved.35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.”

The Israelites’ arrival in the wilderness must have been jarring and disorienting on so many levels at once. All of a sudden, they find that the ground beneath them has shifted, both literally and figuratively. As cruel as Pharaoh’s oppression must have been, slavery also brought with it a kind of comfort through dependence and stability in an organized society.

Now trailing through the desolation of the desert with great uncertainty for a long time, and their survival at stake, it is the uncertainty of receiving their daily ration of life giving manna, that caused their impulse to gather as much as they can for self-preservation.

And yet they came to find out soon that manna just doesn’t work that way…

Manna is Godly sustenance to be received as needed. It is no accident that “Manna” in the ancient eastern mediterranean languages like Greek and Aramaic as well as old Hebrew, means “Mother” and as you well know you can’t store your Mother’s milk, and yet you receive it each and every day as the necessary sustenance of life for all newborn babies up till when they can eat solid foods.

Or as Rabbi Shai Held writes in his essay on this parashah, in “The Heart of Torah” that through God’s offering of manna, “the people were being taught a new way of being, a new way of gifting, and a new way of receiving.

” Through manna, they are “learning to trust.””

This message resonates deeply for me as we find ourselves in our own wilderness right now.

Again, in the words of Rabbi Held, “Religion is about many things — one of them is the aspiration to surrender the illusion of self-sufficiency. We need God, and we need other people. Because we are human, and therefore embodied and fragile, the question, ultimately, is not whether we will be dependent, but on whom.”

This points to everything we actually do … showing up to be in community with one another; to sing and to learn and to pray together; to care deeply and tangibly for one another; to march together, prune trees together, lobby together, built a future and demand justice together. 

And because we are human, and therefore embodied, frail and fragile — we need one another just as much as we need God, because we have the power to uplift each other in ways great and small. 

All lifting together, in order to create a better world for the tomorrows of all of our children too.

So, in this Sabbath and the week ahead during this times of too much pain — may we all find help and allyship with each other in aways that the means, the meat and the manna are provided so that we learn to trust and be comfortably dependent on God as we are reliant on one another. 

And may we all come to realize that, in fact we have just enough, of the right flavor and exactly the essence of what we need, in order to traverse this present wilderness we are trailing through.

Shabbat Shalom,

Yours,

Dr Churchill 

PS: 

Trust me now — be content, be peaceful and be hopeful, because there are better days ahead.

And may the Peace that transcends all understanding, finds its way into your heart.

And then together again we’ll rise and trod our way to destiny. 

For the fulfillment of it is our only true North.

All that because to be human is such a rare thing…

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Shabbat Manna… 4

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