I publish the following thought every year since each year it seems to be more relevant than ever.
In this week’s Torah portion, the tribes of Reuven and Gad address Moshe Rabbeinu before going off to war, explaining how they wish to secure their livestock and their children. “We will build enclosures for our flocks and towns for our children.” Enclosures for flocks followed by towns for children. It is as if they are saying: Focus mainly on money and career and secondarily on family.
Moshe Rabbeinu answers them, yet his answer reverses the order of concerns: “Build towns for your children and enclosures for your flocks.” This is a lesson in priorities; what is mentioned first takes precedence over what is mentioned second.
And then Rashi succinctly elucidates the underlying message of this passage: “Make what is primary – primary, and what is secondary – secondary.”
Indeed, we know what is of primary and what is of secondary importance in life, yet this understanding is not always easy to apply. How much of our time is utilized in a meaningful way, and how much of it is wasted? Do we scroll through our cell phones and send messages on WhatsApp when our child is standing next to us, in need of our attention? Do we make decisions based on what other people will say or on what our best self is telling us to do? Do we get distracted with non-essential matters that leave us feeling empty or take on projects that bring fulfillment? In short, do we order our priorities like the tribes of Gad and Reuven or like Moshe Rabbeinu?
May we merit to make what is primary – primary, and what is secondary – secondary.
Taking A Bird’s-Eye View Of Our Journey Through Life
In the week’s Torah portion, we are given a detailed survey of the nation of Israel’s wanderings in the desert which, at first glance, may appear nothing more than a long and exhausting ordeal. 42 encampments during our 40-year journey are listed chronologically until, at last, we merit to enter the Promised Land.
Our sages explain that we undertake many protracted, arduous journeys throughout our lives. As we march along, it is not always possible to understand the purpose of everything that happens. Our vision is limited as we focus on one specific occurrence after the next. We may experience a crisis that seems to have no solution or get the feeling that, instead of moving forward, we are in retreat We may have climactic moments only to discover that true redemption is still a long way off.
After 40 years in the desert, the nation looks back and sees things differently There is a new understanding that every step of the journey was important, that we learned both from our successes and from our failures.
The parasha teaches us how vital it is to keep everything in perspective, to take a wider view. This ability to step back and see the big picture can benefit us not only as a nation but on an individual level as well. We need to be reminded that what is happening now is only a single segment of a great and meaningful journey that, without a doubt, will all make perfect sense in the end.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.