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May 09, 2013 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-05-09

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Torah portion


A Favored Child?

Parshat Bamidbar: Numbers 1:1-4:20;
Hosea 2:1-2:22.

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48 May 9 • 2013



ho is the most favored
child? In my house, there
are occasional disagree-
ments over privileges, whether it is
who is in the front seat, who gets to
tell me their story first,
whose song is to be played
on the radio or who gets to
pick what we are making for
I recently met with a fam-
ily while preparing to bury
their elderly grandmother.
Each grandchild recounted
for me, "We each believed
we were her favorite:' What
a beautiful statement: This
beloved figure instilled con-
fidence, pride and an enduring sense
of being special in each of her precious
In this week's parshah, God has to
come up with a way to make all of
the Children of Israel feel that they
are "the favored ones" as we move
through the wilderness on our way to
the Promised Land. Like children, the
Israelites were a quarrelsome bunch,
and it was likely that the Jewish chil-
dren would ask, "Whom does God love
the most? Who is God's favorite tribe?"
God has a plan to deal with this
potential source of discord.
God arranged each tribe in a con-
figuration around the mishkan. The
mishkan was our moveable Tent of
Meeting, our Jewish U-Haul complete
with Ark of the Covenant, menorah
and implements for sacrifice. This
mishkan was placed in the exact cen-
ter of the Jewish marchers. All of the
tribes are arranged around the east,
west, north and south, with three
tribes on each side.
Now, there was still a "front seat:' In
the east was the division of Judah (to
be the future tribe of kings); Moses,
Aaron and the kohanim (the Jewish
high priests) were placed directly
behind the division of Judah and clos-
est to the mishkan. We were walking
mainly eastward, so clearly these guys

were the VIPs. And the other Levite
families also had interior placement.
Yet, this arrangement tried to offer
something to everybody. Every tribe
other than the Levites, including the
kohanim, was equidistant
from the mishkan, the
moveable Tent of Meeting.
It was clearly understood
that the mishkan was the
place where the spirit of
God dwelled. So, all who
marched were the same
distance away from God's
This plan was not merely
a wise way to avoid argu-
ments. The arrangement
offered a new way to look at our place
in life, not just in terms of birth order,
or where our home is in the neighbor-
hood or the corner office to which we
aspire. We are reminded that when we
move together as one through any wil-
derness (violent times, times of tribu-
lation, times of upheaval or sadness or
even just times of change), we function
better when we measure our proximity
not to each other, but to God, the spiri-
tual center in our lives.
In this week when we celebrate the
giving of our tradition, I will try to
make my own children feel equally
cherished. I hope that I can convey to
them the wisdom of this week's por-
tion, that we all have equal access to
God's love and to the gifts of our tradi-

Keren Alpert is a rabbi at Temple Beth El

in Bloomfield Township.

• How do you make all of your
loved ones feel treasured?
• Do you have family members
for whom this is more challeng-
• Is there a way to ref rame your
aspirations beyond status and
"your place" in the world?

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