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Home » B'Ha'alotcha, Life Is Beautiful

B’haalotcha: Live every Moment

Submitted by on June 3, 2012 – 5:54 amNo Comment | 3,376 views

An Invitation

Just before the Jews departed Sinai, Moses invited his father in Law to join them. Jethro wasn’t a Jew from birth; he was a priest, who had converted first to monotheism and later Judaism. Moses was somewhat hesitant about his invitation as apparent from the following text.

Then Moses said to Hobab [1] son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’s father-in-law, we are journeying to the place about which the Lord said, I will give it to you. Go with us and we will be good to you.” [2]

Leaving the Heart Behind

Note that Moses said the Jews would journey to Israel whereas Jethro was invited to go to Israel. The difference between going and journeying is that going means to travel physically, but to remain emotionally unwilling. The body moves along, but the heart remains in place. Journeying means to go with joy – the entire person journeys to the destination.  It is possible to go without journeying. One can board a plane and travel with reluctance. Your heart and spirit are with your family, but you have no choice because circumstances force you to make the trip.

Moses told Jethro that for Jews this trip would be a journey, they had been looking forward to their arrival in Israel with anticipation. Moses worried that for Jethro this trip would be marred by a reluctance to leave his homeland and family. Moses acknowledged this difficulty in his invitation saying in effect, I know this might be hard for you but I beg you to join us, it will be good for you.

Jethro was taken aback at this insinuation as evident from his reply. “He said to him, I won’t go, for I will go to my land and my birthplace.” Moses, he said, I wouldn’t be going if I went with you. Meaning this wouldn’t be a trip of reluctance. Do you want to know what kind of trip I would make with reluctance? The one I am about to make to my land and my birthplace. I need to go because I want to introduce my family to the joy and wonder of Judaism, [3] but though circumstances force me to go home, I am reluctant for I would much rather travel directly to Israel.

Appreciate the Gems

Moses hastened to clarify his original intention. “He said, please don’t leave us, because you are familiar with our encampments in the desert and you will be our guide.” I didn’t suspect your reluctance would stem from your love of the climate and social milieu of your homeland.

My concern was that you might not want to join us because you are familiar with our encampments in the desert. You watched my people do nothing but complain every time they made camp in this fearsome desert. They grumbled about lack of food, moaned about lack of water and turned against, G-d when I didn’t return from Mount Sinai at the time they expected me. You might join us because you want to go to Israel, but you might feel out of place with our stiff necked grumblers. You might pine for your homeland where people are happier more cordial and more peaceful.

Yet, I beg you to join us for with you at our side the people will have a proper guide. They will look at you and think, Jethro left his friends and homeland for the privilege of studying the Torah and observing its commandments. How can we complain about trivial things when we see how much he gave up just to receive a portion of what we have?live every moment

In Jethro’s sacrifice the people will learn the value of their religion and in his presence they will be uplifted. When they see that what is theirs by birthright is highly desirable to those who weren’t born with it they will never take it lightly again. They will stop taking it for granted. They will stop complaining about trivial grievances. They will begin to truly appreciate and cherish the sacred gem G-d gave them.

Learning From the Convert

As we read these lines we do well to reflect on our own lives. Those of us privileged to be born into Judaism are in possession of a gem we don’t even know to value. It is incumbent on us to learn from righteous proselytes [4] how to value the privilege of Judaism.

It is not easy to leave family, friends and an entire way of life behind. It is not a simple matter to learn a new way of life and adapt to the innumerable difficulties inherent in Jewish living. It is not easy to adopt a slate of new holidays that require exasperating labor at home and taking days off work. It is surely not easy to break into a pre existing community, learn a new language, adopt new values, acclimate to new social etiquette and develop new friendships.

Yet the proselyte does all this with joy. If we take a moment to reflect we might realize how much we can learn from the proselyte. We attend Synagogue, but do we go there or journey? We fast on Yom Kippur, but do we do it with reluctance or joy? Do we love the Torah like the proselyte does?

The Torah tells us not to discriminate against the proselyte. Forget discrimination. They should be put on a pedestal so we could all learn from them. If only some of their enchantment with Torah would rub off on us. If only some of their joy would infect us. If only some of their commitment would inspire us, we would be a much better people.

Live Every Moment

This is all with respect to religion, but there is a broader lesson for life. Life is a road that is traveled over time. Things are never static; they inevitably change as our circumstances evolve. We have two options; we can journey along the road of life or make a go of it.

We look back with fondness at the best parts of our past, but we cannot remain mired there if we want to enjoy the future. Every part of our road holds undiscovered delights and untold rewards, but we only find them if we seek them. We can’t seek them if our minds and hearts are focused on the past stretches of road. You can’t go through life; you have to turn it into a journey.

Moses was afraid that Jethro might have given up his past only to get mired in it, but jethro assured him this was not the case. As we read this text we do well to ask ourselves this very question and see if we can honestly answer the way Jethro did.  [5]

[1] Jethro had seven names, one of which is Hobab, which means beloved. By using this name Moses demonstrated his love for his father in law and his intense desire to see him join the Jewish people.

[2] Numbers 10: 29 – 32.

[3] That he went home to convert his family is supplied by Sifri quoted by Rash in his commentary to this verse.

[4] The same applies to those holy souls who do teshuvah midstream in life and adapt to a whole new lifestyle.

[5] This essay is based on commentary from Kli Yakar to Numbers 10: 29 – 31.

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