What Would You Pack?
1 pair of pants, 1 shirt, 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of socks
Shampoo and hair gel, toothbrush and toothpaste, face whitening cream
Comb, nail clipper
100 U.S. dollars
130 Turkish liras
Smart phone and back-up cell phone
SIM cards for Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey
—contents of Iqbal’s backpack on arriving in Lesbos, Greece (emphasis added)
Iqbal, from war-torn Kunduz Province in Afghanistan, is a refugee featured in this photo essay by the International Rescue Committee. He said that he hoped that his cosmetics and grooming would make it less likely that he would be identified as a refugee and detained.
Two sections of our parashah (Num. 4:21-49, 7:1-9) deal with the instructions to the Levite clans responsible for transporting the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The tales of these contemporary refugees’ packs remind us just how remarkable it is that the Israelites carried substantial (and seemingly nonessential) structures through the wilderness.
Perhaps, as with Iqbal’s hair gel and comb, the Mishkan was a means of protection: it was the camp’s dwelling-place for God, who provided the Israelites with food, water, and defense against unfriendly peoples. However, I suspect that Iqbal’s ability to keep himself looking respectable also helped him maintain a sense of who he was: a young man with dignity. The Mishkan played a similar role: as the spiritual and geographical center of the camp, it reminded the Israelites that they were one people united not only by blood, but also by their intimate relationship with God.
If you had space in your backpack, what would you take to remind you of who you are, or who you want to be?