Learning to overcome setbacks, just like the Israelites.
This directive seems cruel at first, forcing the people to listen to rules for life in a land that they will never get to inhabit. Yet the commentators suggest that God is helping them to focus beyond their setback. Rashi explains, “God informed them that they would enter the Land,” meaning they are being assured that it will happen eventually for the Israelites as a people, if not for them individually. Nahmanides claims God has shifted God’s audience and is speaking to the next generation, assuring them of their destiny. The message seems to be that in the face of failure and defeat, one should not lose sight of the ultimate goal.
The Narmada Dam movement has done just that. In fact, it has expanded its mission, not just to include stopping the dam, but also to encompass the creation of a just society. Arundhati Roy explains, “[this] fight over the fate of a river valley… began to raise doubts about an entire political system. What is at issue now is the very nature of our democracy. Who owns this land? Who owns its rivers? Its forests? Its fish?”
Perhaps the endurance of the movement to save the communities of the Narmada River is rooted in its scale of vision. Like the Israelites, we are so often unable to have faith that another reality is possible, and it is that lack of vision that sends us wandering in the desert. It is Roy again who reminds us of the attainability of our dreams. She says, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Let us listen for the coming of another world and work to hasten its arrival.
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.