Emerging from the Wilderness

The parashah we studied on June 13 – Sh’lach – reflected a period of uncertainty in fledgling Israel’s existence. The people are encamped in the wilderness of Paran, not far it transpires from the land that was to become our home. God tells Moses to send spies, powerful men, tribal leaders (named by name), to scout the land and report back. What kind of country is it? What are the people like? Are they many? Are they strong? Are their towns fortified? Is the soil fertile? We’re told that 12 spies went out and came back with conflicting reports. Most of them were negative, and only Caleb and Joshua proclaimed the goodness of the land. 


The consequences of the reports were pretty devastating – the spies and their generation were excluded from the land with the exception of Caleb and Joshua; but from this point on, confidence begins to grow and the remaining chapters of the parashah reflect what a future settled reality will be, with the people as citizens of the land bringing offerings of thanksgiving from their own produce.

Our community has been in a wilderness of uncertainty for several months now, and many of us have tentatively sent out our own ‘spies’ into the future, listening to the experience of other individuals and communities across the world to try to get a picture of what it might be like when we emerge. What will our community be like? What will our services be like?  What will our leadership be like? Some say it’s never going to be the same, and perhaps they’re right, perhaps it shouldn’t be the same. Others are afraid we might struggle to survive. Others still, including myself, are excited about what we have achieved while in our lockdown wilderness.

For more than three months now we have been reaching out to each other and trying to sustain our community – with great success – online, with prayer, study & schmoozing. We have never been so connected. And many of our members found their way to the schmooze moments, and the book club, including a strong contingent from IJC’s older generation and others living outside Brussels and even outside Belgium. I’ve never had so many emails with fascinating reading suggestions – mostly from our seniors – and of course lots of humour. Our Facebook page has become not only an arena for exchange, it has developed into a genuine IJC voice, reflecting what concerns us as Jews and those sharing our journey, both global and local.

So, we can be confident about the future, in spite of the challenges and changes. Faces and voices were all we had, some familiar and some new, but it was always a joy to see and hear, a smile, a wave, a beautiful melody and some crooked communal ‘Zoom’ singing.  Those same faces and voices will continue to sustain, build and lead our community in the future.

Brian Doyle

IJC Rabbinical Intern