Parshat Naso: Carry On

hero image
Negev desert
31 May 2009
Arts & Media

To serve and to carry…

It was a wasteland. I remember.

Nothing could ever grow there. Not plants and not relationships. I would walk there, thinking what a perfect world – after all, waste was all I knew.

This was the reality into which I was born. I grew up believing that what you see is what you get. And all I saw was a world in confusion so all I got was confused.

I remember my friends, how they felt so insignificant they would do anything to feel special, how they felt so low they would do everything to get high. And by anything and everything I mean anything and everything. Of course, they told me they were happy, that this was what they wanted, but I wonder what they told themselves when they were alone and sober. Maybe that’s why they never were, alone and sober.

This was the wasteland and it had started taking a toll on me as well. I couldn’t stand looking at my friends’ decay, nor could I live with the notion that waste here is the warden and growth its broken prisoner. How can it possibly be, salty tears so normal and sweet smiles so alien?

It was in the most desolate part of the wasteland that everything changed.

I would walk there sometimes, just to get away from it all. It was so dead that even the sun would not dare show its face there. It was dark and cold and, the sad thing was, I felt right at home.

This time, as I walked there, I saw a little child making its way through the needle thorns and black leaves. As the child approached, or perhaps I approached the child, I could make out an unbelievable sight – the child was leaving a trail! Wherever it walked, whatever it touched, turned beautiful, became alive: the thorns suddenly bloomed flowers, the leaves magically turned green, the blackness blazed with a glow warm even on my scarred face.

As the child came closer to me, or perhaps I came closer to the child, I could see it was carrying something – not necessarily in a bag or briefcase but more like in itself. The child was carrying something in its being that was shiny and I couldn’t recognize it.

The child turned to me – not startled, but almost expectant – and I turned to the child.

The child ran over to me and grabbed me around the leg, holding on tight. And I began to weep.

The child stepped back and looked at me. Through my blurry – though never clearer – vision, I could see the question in the child’s pure face: “Now you understand?”

I nodded my head. I understood.

It was a wasteland. I remember. And I shall never forget. But now I know that I carry a glow, and I illuminate everywhere I walk and everything I touch. It took the child to remind me that I carry what it carries, that we all carry, even (and especially) in the deepest wasteland, a holy of holies, a soul that ignites as it burns.

The child reminded me that a wasteland is a time and place we are passing through, only so that we can take what we carry and turn the waste into promise.

Let us carry on. And what seemed to be yesterday a wasteland, we know today is a land of promise.

Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.