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June 20, 2003 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-20

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Torah Portion


Embarrassing Moment
Provides Life Lessons


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one feels they should be treated this way!
This is not the way a family is sup-
posed to behave with each other, partic-
ularly not a family formed by the brit
kodesh, the "holy covenant" sealed with
the Revelation at Sinai.
0 ur Torah portion for this
It would appear that God and Moses
week is embarrassing to read.
and the Israelites are not quite sure of
The Israelites are griping
how dependable and trustworthy are the
and complaining (Numbers
other two!
11:1-23), which gets God really angry,
So one complains. The
while Moses whines, "Hey,
other is frustrated and angry,
what about me!?"
and the third shouts, "Well!
We have no sympathy what-
What about me?!"
soever for the Israelites; we are
It sounds like most families.
surprised at God's impatience
And in its resemblance to the
and sudden frustration, and we
reality of our lives lies a great
wonder if Moses is acting out
for attention.
This is a story about us, all
We ask ourselves, "Doesn't
of us who come together in
anyone in the story trust any-
families and in friendships
RABBI JOSEPH and in communities. We
body else?"
The people complain:
think that it will be relatively
Special to the
"Why do we have to suffer so
easy to be wonderful with
Jewish News
in the desert? Who will take
each other, but it is hard to
care of us, and get us food and
give up "self" in order to be
water? Where is God now? What has
something bigger than self
God done for us lately!?" God gets so
Family and community relationships
hot that the camp was torched with
are necessarily frustrating — not all the
divine fire.
time, but often enough. The trick is to
We understand God's impatience and
learn from the conflicts and grow
frustration. After all God did for them
beyond them.
— getting them out of Egypt, providing
Our Torah portion comes serendipi-
manna for them to eat, giving them fresh
tously during the traditional wedding
water, bringing them to Sinai — how do
season, and so speaks to our newly mar-
they have the nerve to complain now?
ried couples: If the divinely sanctioned
But if God cannot be patient, under-
and sealed desert "marriage" of God and
standing and forgiving of our faults, then Israel was rocky at times, how much
who is? So Moses prayed; the fire was
more so are our marriages between mere
extinguished and Moses "brings God to
men and women?
God's senses," demonstrating an
However, if this covenant between
admirable quality of take-charge leader-
God and Israel is still strong and healthy
and filled with expectation after 3,500
But of course, it's all to no avail; for in years, there is every reason to think that
the very next verse, we see that the
our wedding covenants will also last, if
Israelites are back at it! Now they com-
only we work at making them work!
plain that all they have is this manna-
Our Torah portion has a message
about marriage: When one spouse com-
And Moses, seeing the kvetching
plains and the other becomes frustrated
(complaining) of the people and God's
and angry and neither thinks he is being
angry response, throws up his own
treated fairly, remember that it has hap-
hands to God, shouting: 'And what
pened before and will certainly again.
about me!? How about giving me a little
This argument in the desert is not the
attention? Why am I the only one who
end of the covenant, but part of the
has to put up with the burden of this
process by which it becomes stronger.
people? If this is the way it's going to be,
The brit kodesh of kiddushinlmarriage is
just kill me now and be done with it!"
strengthened by working through its dif-
How embarrassing for us to see God
ficulties and conflicts.
and Moses and the Israelites treating
The promise at Sinai that together
each other this way. Everybody schries
God and Israel will change the world
gevalt (cries help) that life's unfair. No
and make it better for all of humanity is
also the promise of marriage.
May our new families change our
Joseph Klein is rabbi of Temple
and bring blessing to our people
Emanu-El. His e-mail address is
and to humanity.

Shabbat Behalotecha:
Numbers 8: 1-12: 16;
Zechariah 2:14-4:7.

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