The WORD – 6/23/11. “Whoa! He’s carrying around a lot of baggage.” “Man, she’s got some baggage!”
I remember I first came across this expression. I wondered why people felt compelled to walk around with their suitcases. Were they on their way to the airport? Were they new in town?
However, I soon came to love this idiom. After all, how could we discuss Anthony Weiner, John Edwards or Bristol Palin without the benefit of this expression? This wonderful metaphor reminds us that we carry our old experiences with us as we encounter new people and situations. Sometimes, these are helpful to us. More often, our “baggage” leads us somewhere we don’t really want to go. Whether good or bad, the more experiences, the more we carry and the more we might actually need some sort of bag in which to store them.
“Baggage” is acquired not only by individuals, but by communities as well. The Jewish people was profoundly changed by the Holocaust. Israeli society has been altered by the growing sense of isolation in the community of nations. And there are many, many more examples from modern history.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about an event which greatly impacted upon our ancestors — Korah’s rebellion. Korah and a group of followers challenged Moshe’s leadership. As a result, Moshe offered to subject himself and Korah to a test in order to see whom God would choose. The test involved the lighting of incense in pans. Needless to say, Moshe won.
However, the question then arose as to what to do with the incense pans of Korah and his followers. God commanded that these pans be made into hammered sheets which would become the plating of the Altar in the Tabernacle. They were supposed to serve as a reminder to the people of the victory of truth over falsehood. In a very real way, the Israelites would carry Korah’s rebellion around with them as they wandered in the wilderness on their way to the Land of Canaan. God wanted them to learn from the experience and change their behavior.
It wasn’t exactly “baggage,” but it was probably a whole lot heavier. As we face new experiences, we should all open our “bags” and see what we’ve learned over the years to help us overcome the challenges we face.