While scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across a post that read, “Doing a brother check-in, showing support for you, brother. Pay it forward and show someone else some brotherly love.” I wrote back immediately: “I’m here for you, brother.”
The exchange has stayed with me. I’ve seen a number of similar postings—shout outs, if you will. People are using social media to yell into what has begun to feel, for many, like a void. And then to listen for the echo, the answering voice: “We’re here too,” the invisible community shouts back. “We’re here too.”
This Shabbat marks the start of a new book of the Torah, the fourth, BeMidbar or Numbers. As the book begins, the Israelites are preparing to leave from Mount Sinai and embark on the second part of their journey to the Promised Land. But before they do, God requests a head count: “God spoke to Moses in the Sinai desert, in the Communion Tent on the first [day] of the second month in the second year of the Exodus, saying: Take a census of the entire Israelite community.”
This is, in fact, the second census; the first, taken a month earlier and described in Exodus, required each eligible Israelite to come forward and give a half-shekel coin to be counted. In this second census, God instructs Moses to make the list by name in order to answer the age-old question Who’s with me?, making it essentially the first, holy shout-out.
Now, here we are, poised at the top of our own metaphorical viral mountain. The second part of our journey is now underway. Our destination is before us, though what obstacles and byways lie ahead is anyone’s guess.
A journey can be a simple trip between Point A and Point B, or it can be something else. It can be transportive or transformative. And it’s the lessons learned, the wisdom shared, and the community of fellow travelers that spell the difference between the two.
I believe in the deeper narrative, so this is my check-in, my shout out to the invisible community I know is there: I’m here for you. Who’s with me?