Rabbi Miriam's Blog
Rabbinic Intern Message by Dov Gottesfeld
How many times have we reflected after an argument with a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker, or after we speaking lashon ha-ra about someone behind his/her back, and later we realized that the core issue was much larger and deeper, and it had to do with us. Perhaps we were feeling hurt and victimized by that person but we were too timid and therefore too angry to spell it out head on. (That is if we are willing to be honest and truthful with ourselves.)
Two separate episodes are depicted in this week’s portion, Beha’alotcha - which means ‘when you carry up’. They refer to the instructions given to Aharon the High Priest on how to kindle the lights of the Menorah in the Holy Temple.
The first episode occurred when a young man hurried to tell Moses that two young men, Eldad and Maydad “act prophet in the camp.” Young Joshua, the son of Nun who eventually became the Israelite leader, told Moses to detain the two. Moses, being a humble man, realized that young Joshua’s ego was hurting and perhaps he feared that if it was true, Moses would choose one of them to be the future leader, instead of him. Moses responded: “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them?” What a
lesson in leadership!
In the second episode Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, sneered behind his back about the Cushite woman he had married. God punishes Miriam with leprosy, and not Aaron, because she initiated that conversation. Moses ended up crying loudly “O’ God heal her!” “El na refa na lah.” Miriam was healed.
Was it the fact that Moses married a Cushite woman that really troubled Miriam? I don’t think so. If we read closely in the story, we shall notice that Moses was grooming a young man, Joshua, to take over for him. Just recently he had chosen seventy elders to assume high positions within his kitchen cabinet’, so to speak. He had given his brother Aaron an important position as the high priest. Yet, he had not given her -- the sister who had saved his life when he was a baby, and to whom he owed his life, any meaningful position in the leadership.
Why, then, didn’t she confront Moses? Why didn’t she request an official position? Was it beneath herself? Is it possible that Moses did not want her to be burdened in the desert because she was older than he was? We will never know. However, it is clear that her ego was deeply hurt and the only outlet she could think of was to speak badly about her baby brother.
Before we open our mouths to say anything about others, let us remember the lesson from Pirkei Avot, the ”Wisdom Sayings of our Fathers”: “A person who guards his tongue, [in essence] is guarding his life [from getting into trouble.]
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.