Parshat Devarim: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27 (Shabbat Hazon)

There is an inspirational account that, in one version or another, is often printed. The earliest known version of “Footprints” reads:

An elderly man, who had lived his life and left this world to go and meet his Maker, asked the Lord a question.

“As I’m looking down on the paths I’ve trod, I see two sets of footprints on the easy paths.

“But down the rocky roads I see only one set of footprints.

“Tell me, Lord, why did you let me go down all those hard paths alone?”

The Lord smiled and simply replied, “Oh, my son, you’ve got that all wrong!

“I carried you over those hard paths.”

There is no doubt that we all go through rough times. Life presents us bumps, curves and even mountains that we must overcome. Each of us has come upon obstacles that we thought were insurmountable; and then, somehow, we were able to overcome them. How is it that we do this over and over in our lives? And, if God can simply pick us up, why make us sweat, panic and doubt our own abilities?

In this week’s Torah portion we read: “And in the wilderness, where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a parent carries their child, all the way that you traveled until you came to this place” (Deuteronomy 1:31).

Is it possible that God truly carried each Israelite the entire way through 40 years of desert wandering? Is it true that God carried us “on the wings of eagles” all the way to the border of the promised land? Is it possible that God carries us over those places that we don’t believe we can overcome ourselves? Or is there something else going on?

The Malbim (1800s Ukraine) wrote on this verse: “For there, God gave them a great strength to overcome (the difficulties) of this massive desert that could not have been done on their own strength, rather only as God gave them the strength — just as a father gives his child strength to move on and continue to overcome the difficulties in front of them.”

We have the obligation to recognize the spark of God that exists inside each of us. We often forget it is there, but in moments of crisis and difficulty, those sparks glow brighter and remind us of who we are and what we are here to do. Each of us has the ability to use this spark of God to give strength, encouragement and even someone to lean on.

We must then ask ourselves: “Whom can I carry through this rough and rocky period?” Or, when we reach that insurmountable spot, “Who might be able to carry me?”

When we do this, we allow our sparks to come together and make the world that much brighter. 

Rabbi Shalom Kantor is the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield.

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