The Book of Numbers teaches us many life lessons. At the beginning of the book, we learn about the value of organization both internally and externally. We also learn about the importance of having a vision for the future. That means to know where you are going even if you cannot see it!
Much of the Book of Numbers is about how the Israelites responded to difficulties along the way. Sadly, as we know, they did not handle hardship well. In fact, many people died along the way because of their inability to see beyond the immediate challenge. This week, the Torah portion is about the rebellion of Korah. Korah was a priest who was disenchanted with the leadership of Moses because the journey was taking too long and there was no end in sight. A faction was created which challenged the leadership of Moses. The rebellion was quelled, but this episode reminds us that losing the vision creates conflict, disappointment, and setbacks. Sometimes the loss of vision causes people to forfeit opportunities for service and keeps them from fulfilling the vision.
Last week when I came home from the Beth Messiah synagogue on Shabbat, I watched a portion of the Memorial Golf Tournament. The leader of the tournament at the time, Jon Rahm, had just finished his play for the day and held a commanding lead. Suddenly, the announcer said that something had happened, and that Rahm had been told something and had gone to his knees. He got up and walked briskly into the clubhouse, and no cameras were allowed to follow. It turns out that at the end of the 18th hole, Rahm was told that he tested positive for Covid-19 and, as a result, would have to withdraw from the tournament. What a disappointment! He not only forfeited the tournament, which he was going to win, but also the $1,674,000 that would go to the winner. A little later, Jon Rahm released a statement that I think clearly demonstrated that he had not lost the vision for his life and would not let this setback cause him to veer off course:
"I'm very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament. This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people," Rahm wrote in a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday evening. "I'm very thankful that my family and I are all OK. I will take all the necessary precautions to be safe and healthy, and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible. Thank you to all of the fans for their support, and I'm looking forward to watching the showdown tomorrow afternoon with you all".
He acknowledged his disappointment, but he did not let the disappointment change who he is or his vision for the future. He could see beyond the present disappointment to the future. He said that how we respond to these kinds of setbacks defines us.
How do we respond when setbacks come our way? If we have a vision for our lives, then we can see beyond the setbacks. But when we forget the vision, then the setback can control us and cause us to respond in a way that only makes the situation worse. In the worst case scenario, we forfeit the vision. Korah forfeited the vision. Let us heed the words of Paul in Phil 3:8–16. Let us press on and keep moving forward toward the upward call of the Lord! Let us keep moving through the wilderness of this life until we come to the promised land of New Jerusalem!