The Problematics of Patterns
I was recently looking at the VDOT site on the Middle Ground Boulevard Project and noticed a link entitled: “Map of New Traffic Pattern.” I clicked on the link and there it was: the new traffic pattern, superimposed on the past.
I found myself thinking: If only it were so simple to change other patterns in our lives…
But, in truth, even the establishment of a new traffic pattern is not sustainable without adequate preparation, process, and planning.
Our Torah portion reminds us of the complex nature of patterns in our lives.
If one is sensitive to some prevalent patterns which appear in our Biblical stories, one would not be surprised to note that, in ancient times, our people loved to complain. In fact, they fell into a pattern of complaining.
The ancient Israelites complained about not having, what they remembered as, the plentiful food they had in Egypt (Exodus 16:3), and God responded favorably to their request. They complained about the flavor of the water in the desert (Exodus 15:23-24), and God sweetened the water for them. They also complained about not having enough water (Exodus 17:1-7), and God brought forth water from a rock.
Having established a pattern of complaining, we learn, in this week’s Torah portion, that the Israelites complained yet again! This time it was general complaining (Numbers 11:1). No specifics were needed. The pattern of complaining had been established.
But, this time God became angry. A pattern, once based on real concerns, had taken on a life of its own. The people simply continued following the old pattern of complaining, even when there was nothing substantial to complain about!
There is so much to be learned from this piece of Torah!
How easy is it for us to become used to patterns in our lives, and to continue following those patterns, even when the original circumstances that generated them no longer exist! How often might we ask ourselves whether the patterns we’ve established in our lives are still helpful, or have they become a hindrance? These are important questions to ask ourselves from time to time.
This week, as I heard of yet another shooting spree on a college campus resulting in the death of yet another innocent human being and the wounding of others, I asked myself – are there patterns in our lives that contribute to this recurrent situation across our country? Are there things we could do differently, as individuals, or as a community, to make a difference for the good in our society?
I share these thoughts with you in the hopes that we can help, comfort, heal, and, possibly, even prevent further unnecessary tragedies from becoming a part of our shared future.
The Torah is a tree of life to all who hold onto her.
May the Torah inspire us to examine our patterns, to make necessary course corrections, and to appreciate our lives and the lives of those around us as the precious gift that life is.
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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