WE THE NORTH

Geography affects us. We take special pride in being Canadian and not being something else. Yet, what does it mean to be from "The North" relative to other peoples and cultures?

 

Our parsha has something to say on the subject. After the sin of the Spies, the Jews turned to the desert where they lived for 38 years. After this time, God instructed Moshe, "You have been skirting this hill country long enough; now turn north."(Devarim 2:3) Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz (1550 -1619) in his "Kli Yakar"draws a homiletic message from this verse. The verse beginsrav lachem - "You have much." He explains that the verse refers to both its time and to all generations. When people find some success, they have the choice to either flaunt or conceal their prosperity. Rabbi Luntschitz explains that the word for north -tzafon - also means "to hide." (Think tzafun from the seder night.) The Torah is cautioning our people that when in exile, we should not be conspicuous with our wealth and power. Rather, we should keep quiet and stay low. 

 

The association between the direction north and concealment is probably not by chance. The cold keeps us bundled up and close to sources of warmth (as well as to one another). Exposure in cold climates is dangerous. Concern for physical exposure slowly migrates into a concern for social exposure. Rabbi Luntschitz asks us to embrace the caution and humility that such "northern values" reflect. It is worth reflecting on the degree to which our Canadian and Jewish culture are positively informed by these values. When we say "WE THE NORTH," let us think of the multiple meanings within "WE THE TZAFON."