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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

07/13/2023 05:03:24 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This Shabbat, we read the double portion of Matot-Masei, which covers various logistical concerns as we bring the book of Numbers to a close. The Israelites tie up loose ends with enemies, attain some territory, and make plans for the future settlement and administration of the Promised Land. Included in this parasha is a battle with the Midianites, which the Israelites win. Win is actually an understatement; they emerge so overwhelmingly victorious that the commanders can hardly believe it. They report to Moses, “[We] have made a check of the warriors in our charge, and not one of us is missing!” They are so grateful to Adonai for this 100% survival rate that they each make a generous offering of the gold jewelry in their possession. 

What a difference a few years makes! The last time that a group of Israelites made an undirected, spontaneous contribution of gold jewelry, it was to create the golden calf. That act of heresy was particularly egregious because the people had recently walked through the parted sea. After experiencing this suspension of the laws of nature, they nevertheless clambered for another god. Why, just a few decades later, should the survival of all those troops, admittedly a much smaller miracle than the Exodus, lead to such an act of piety? 

Because, I believe, relationships are not built overnight. Trust cannot be established through a single action, no matter how grand it may be. This was true for the bond between Adonai and our ancestors, and it is true for us today. There are times that we want to go big, whether that means planning a special trip or throwing a surprise party or getting tickets to a sold-out show. But so much of being in meaningful relationship with others is quotidian and unglamorous. We form family bonds when we eat dinner together and lovingly wish each other goodnight; we strengthen our friendships when we regularly take a walk or make a phone date; we get closer with colleagues when we ask for advice and offer to help with a project. These everyday actions build up a strong foundation so that when those big moments do come, we can celebrate together feeling a deep sense of connection, gratitude, and joy. 

This weekend, may we all spend time with those we care about, knowing that the low-key and restful moments we have together are often the most important.

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784