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One and Done

07/14/2021 11:28:32 PM


In my home growing up, if ever we were to complain about a boring class we were taking, my father would quickly remind us that there is something worse than taking a bad class: having to retake it again. The implication was that even though we might not have found the class engaging, it was still wise to do our best lest we have to repeat the class and end up back where we started. Of course, this wisdom doesn’t only apply to tedious classes. Whenever I find myself engaged in work that I’m eager to finish, or doing the hard work to create a new healthy habit, I remind myself that it’s worth the extra attention to see it through the first time, and not have to start back at the beginning.

Unfortunately, the Israelites of our Bible had to learn this lesson the hard way. As we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, the Book of Deuteronomy, we encounter the start of Moses’ final speech to the Israelites that will continue throughout the rest of the book. Framing this first-person speech is a narrative voice that introduces and closes out the book. This narrator explains that the Israelites are just outside the land of Israel amidst some geographical landmarks in the Transjordan valley. Moreover, the narrator informs us that this final speech took place towards the end of the fortieth year of the Israelites’ wanderings.  What is remarkable is that the narrator explains that they are only an eleven-day journey from Horeb (The area containing Mount Sinai)! This means that it took them forty years to make an eleven-day journey! Surely the circumstances of the newly freed slaves in the wilderness were harsh, but had the Israelites not lost faith in God then they would have already been settled in the Promised Land. Instead, they have to repeat the “class,” over and over.

It is not uncommon to face hardships in our own lives, and obstacles that are difficult to navigate. There are moments that test our patience and our resolve taunting us to give up. However, in some cases, giving in means that we lose the progress we made and end up back to where we started. But if something is worth doing, it is worth doing it right. Even if the journey is difficult, every step we take brings us closer to our goals. And once you start your journey, there is only one thing harder than making it to your goals; having to go back to the start. 

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784