In our many years in Los Angeles, Beth and I confronted a dozen wildfires near our home. In the event of evacuation, what would we take with us? The kids, of course. The dog and his crate. Enough clothes for three days or so. Snacks, water, emergency provisions. These things fill a car—and quickly. There is little room for much more. A few ritual items, photos, legal documents, and the car is packed, literally and figuratively. What did we need and what could we simply not part with?
Ki Thisa, this week’s Torah portion, is filled with more of the drama of our wandering in the desert. The reading includes instructions for a census, the Golden Calf, and more. Seemingly mundane descriptions of ritual objects. A washstand, anointing oil, and incense used in the Temple rite—all to further the relationships among the people of Israel and between Israel and God.
Relationship. Place. Memory. The items Israel carried were shaped by these, and they likewise defined the items Beth and I chose. Below is a video of others who have had to make similar decisions, only with far less to choose from. Ethiopian Jewry’s journey to Israel is nearly complete. With a bag or two, with memories on their mind and history on their tongue, may they be settled in Israel in peace and prosperity.