In last week’s parashah, B’ha’alotkha, we learned that when our ancestors were travelling through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, they knew where to make camp only when they saw God’s cloud. Where the cloud was, they were to stop, and they were to remain there until the cloud was lifted: “At the spot where the cloud settled, there the Israelites would make camp… they remained encamped as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle.” (Numbers 9:17-18). In other words, the Children of Israel are to go specifically to the darkest places and stay there until the darkness dissipates.
This, I think, hints that the special charge of the Jewish people is to make sure we are present wherever there is tragedy and pain. We are to go there to make camp – to bring the comfort and the love of home to precisely those places most in need of light and help, support and love – and we are to stay there until the cloud is lifted, until there is no longer a need.
In the interpersonal realm, when we see that another person is in pain, our responsibility is to go to them and remain present for them until there is no longer need. Indeed, mourners and those recovering from illness often report that while many offer help in the early days and weeks, fewer provide support as time goes on. Ironically, “down the road” is when those who have suffered loss or sickness often need our support and our love the most. The Torah challenges us then, to remain present with those in need until there is truly no more need.
And it is true, also, in times of larger-scale disasters. Our challenge is to go and offer comfort, support, and healing, remaining until there is no more need. And if we cannot do this in person, then we should offer any support we can remotely, addressing whatever needs we can, for as long as we can, ideally until the clouds have passed.
In this spirit, I want to encourage us all to continue offering our support to those in Oklahoma recovering from last week’s tornado, whose lives remain shattered by the storm. There are many needs that we can meet, and many ways to meet them. Here’s one:
American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas. You can make a donation directly to the Red Cross’s relief efforts: https://www.redcross.org/donate/index.jsp?donateStep=2&itemId=prod10002, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift.