Friday, June 24, 2016
From Rabbi Peter Stein
This week in Torah, we turn to the intriguing portion of Beha’alotcha. This section from Numbers includes the complaint of the people about the manna…while God is providing for their needs, they are unhappy and fearful.
While the manna falls equally to every household, the people grow unhappy. Rather than embrace and celebrate their equality, they turn on one another. The portion describes the scene: the people were weeping, every clan apart, at the entrance of each tent. The people were thinking only of themselves, not the good of the community. The people were focused on the things that divided them.
It is akin to the classic description of America as a melting pot…there is another, more powerful, characterization, that we should envision ourselves as a salad bowl. We each have our distinctiveness, our uniqueness. And yet, we can come together in a beautiful way. If the food images don’t seem right, think of it as the beauty of a patchwork quilt: every square remains separate, but it is only when woven together that they became so beautiful.
These images are inspired by the Chasidic teaching on this portion. The rabbis lamented the description that the people were each complaining, each on their own, from their own separate place. Rather, let us see that we can come from our own place and work together as a community. Our neighbor’s success isn’t our loss and our neighbor’s differences only add to the beauty and interest of a vibrant community.
When we gather on Shabbat, we wish one another a Shabbat Shalom…a day of peace and a day of wholeness. Shalom conveys that sense of wholeness, a wholeness that comes from many different parts united as one. May we enjoy that shalom in the days to come!