Numbers 11 is a very interesting chapter. The Israelites begin to grumble against Moses, setting in motion a glimpse into Moses’s own personality, the private man (see 11: 10ff). As the Israelites grumble and complain that they have no meat and that things may have been better “in the good old days” in Egypt, we are reminded that they had this thing called manna which provided sustenance. This little segment of the portion led me to think about much of our world today. It is so easy to look only at the negative. Any cursory glimpse of the news affirms that we are not in a great place. It may be very easy to overlook, in the midst of these concerns, the fact that we have “manna” in many guises.
I think this is a segment of the portion (11: 1-9) that can be looked at as a way of re-examining the blessings that we do encounter. Yes, the world situation is challenging and, in many ways, frightening. But in the middle of our concerns there are moments to cherish, these “manna” moments that help provide a centering that we need, especially now and especially as we get older; a centering allowing us to focus on the small things that really matter, things that bring joy and meaning to us.
Allow me to cite a perfect example. I had the honor last weekend to officiate at a wedding of the daughter of a friend. It was a lovely wedding. But the highlight of the entire event was the moment that the father of the bride danced with his newly married daughter. I looked at them on the dance floor and there was this glow about them both. The expressions on their faces, especially dad, was pure joy. It was as if the cares and challenges of life were suspended for just a moment and we were reminded, in vivid fashion, of what really is important. A father and a daughter at a wedding, a life transition embraced with family, friends and love.
What is a message from this week’s portion? Let me suggest that we take the time to remember the blessings we do have. They are often in the smaller things in life, but these are the things in life that really give us meaning. Take time to celebrate them.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.