Groundhog Day

June 17, 2016  

There is a movie that came out in 1993 that was a comedy, drama, and fantasy rolled into one.

The main character of the movie is played by Bill Murray. He is a jaded weatherman for a TV station and is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the February 2nd doings there. Specifically, on that day, a groundhog (named Phil) is supposed to come out of his burrow and see his shadow.

Whether of not he returns to his burrow is supposed to predict whether there will be another six weeks of winter or if spring is imminent. Forget that part, because the traditional prediction is correct about 50% of the time, meaning that it is a legend without any validity to it.

Back to the movie. Bill Murray’s character wakes up in the morning of Groundhog Day and he goes through the day pretty much as a grumpy, nasty person. Before he and his crew have a chance to leave, a heavy snowfall causes them to stay overnight at the hotel. In the morning, he wakes up to find that it is February 2nd once again and he incredulously goes through the day again with only he knowing that it is a second time. For everyone else, it is that same day. Only he is aware that he is reliving the day.

This keeps on happening over and over again. He alone must relive the same day, totally aware of what had happened on his previous experiences of that day. It happens countless times, and slowly but surely, he begins to change his behavior for the better.

I’ll leave out further details so that you can enjoy the movie if you ever see it. Finally, he becomes a better person and goes through the day behaving properly and helping people, etc. And then he is released from his endless cycle.

So what does this have to do with B’haalot’cha? It really has to do with many parts of the Torah. And with many episodes in our lives. Imagine if B’nei Yisrael would have been able to see the results of their complaining about the Manna and of their demanding meat to eat, and of their angering of G-d and of Moshe. And imagine that they could wake up in the morning of the same day that these episodes occurred and eventually change their behavior for the better. Reality doesn’t work like that.

Each individual of Dor HaMidbar had one shot at the many things that occurred during the sojourn in the wilderness. None of them woke up on the same morning with the knowledge of what had happen (or was going to happen – in the movie, each day’s future was also past).

Ah, but we can! We can read the Torah and study it and learn it. And we can be like our ancestors waking up to the same (or similar) situations and be able to make better and better decisions, because we K’ILU (as if) have been through these things before, via the collective memories of the Jewish People throughout all generations. To jump ahead one sedra, Imagine if the Meraglim (spies, scouts) would be able to relive the day they returned from their 40 excursion into Eretz Yisrael.

Imagine if the entire nation would also know what happened when the Meraglim returned and how the masses reacted. And imagine if they had another chance to live through that day. And another and another. Until they got it right. It wouldn’t only be Yehoshua and Kalev who declared ALO NAALEH! They only got one shot at that event. But we – their descendents, have that chance to wake up on the same morning again and hopefully act differently. Who would you have chosen to believe and follow, had you been part of that generation? Impossible to know.

But as part of Klal Yisrael – horizontally (meaning all Jews alive today) and vertically (meaning all Jews through all generations) – we can relive that day – or a day very much like it – when we can choose to appreciate G-d’s gifts rather than complain about them.

When we can chose to reject the words of the majority who would rather remain in the Midbar or return to Egypt and rally to the side of Yehoshua and Kalev. Let’s finally get things right and move on to the Geula Sh’leima.


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