Commentary for Beha’alot’cha

6 Jun

The first two thirds of chapter nine of this week’s parshah contain an important but often overlooked story in the Torah. The Israelites are getting ready to offer their first Passover sacrifice after leaving Egypt. A small group of them, however, find themselves unable to offer the sacrifice because they have recently become impure via contact with a corpse. They go up to Moses and Aaron and ask what they should do. Moses says he will go ask God, and God responds by having Moses establish a date a month later on which those who are impure (and in later times, too far away from the Temple) on the eve of Passover may offer their paschal sacrifices.

 

We often look for ways to avoid our responsibilities, and will take any excuse we can find to shirk them. Instead, these men came to Moses and Aaron and expressed their desire to fulfill this obligation even though circumstances rendered them unable to do so. Rather than falling back on an easy excuse for why they couldn’t do something, they asked to know what they could do.

 

Throughout their time in the desert, the Israelites have developed a reputation for complaining, but here we have a much-overlooked example of people trying to find a solution to a problem. This sort of positive attitude is just as important in this day and age as it was back then. As Rabbi Tarfon reminds us in Pirkei Avot 2:21 “It is not upon you to complete the task, but neither are you free to neglect your duty.” You might only be able to do part of the job, but if you can find a few other people who can also commit to do part of it, the necessary job will get done. You might not be able to help make a minyan every week, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come help make the minyan on the weeks that you can. No one person can do everything, but all of us together can do anything.

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