Appreciate the Present
The Torah reading of this week emphasizes to us the rule in life of
seizing the moment of opportunity. Moshe tells the Jewish people that “we
are traveling now to the place that the Lord has promised” to give to us
as our national homeland. But this proposed victorious march somehow
unravels. There is an incident with Yitro, the father-in-law of Moshe
himself, who does not agree to accompany his adopted nation to its
destination, the Land of Israel. Moshe’s entreaties to him are of no
avail. He has what to him are legitimate, if not even holy reasons to
return to his home and abandon Israel. His behavior makes an impression,
albeit only subconsciously on the psyche of the Jewish people in the
desert. Their optimism and self-pride is weakened. They begin to complain
about their present conditions in the desert. Having given up on their
future, they can think only of their present.
One’s present is always frustrating and fraught with problems. Now, the
manna that fell from heaven daily is no longer an acceptable menu. When
one is in a bad mood no food can taste good in one’s mouth. A wife may
have prepared the tastiest gourmet meal for her husband’s supper, but if
he arrives in a foul mood carrying his work’s problems home with him, then
the meal will somehow be unsatisfying. The complaints regarding the manna
will lead directly to the disaster of the spies that will appear in next
week’s Torah reading. And the result of that debacle is that Moshe’s grand
march to the Land of Israel will never take place for the generation that
escaped Egyptian bondage and lived under miraculous conditions in a vast
Every human being, and nations as well, has moments of opportunity that
are present to be grasped. No opportunities in life are permanent except
for the ever present ability to repent and improve. Opportunities that we
allow to pass us by will, in the main, never return. This is true in
commerce, personal health, family relationships and all other areas of
life as well.
The rabbis in Avot taught us that every person has “his hour” – his
particular opportunity for advancement and accomplishment. The wise and
holy person recognizes such moments and opportunities and acts immediately
upon them. The fool and the lazy let these opportunities escape them. Rabi
Akiva said that one should never procrastinate or postpone Torah learning
for the opportunity may not arise again. Judaism is about action,
optimism, and enthusiasm.
The national tragedies that the Torah deals with in this week’s reading
and in next week’s parsha as well all stem from weakness of self and
demoralization. If we do not believe in ourselves then nothing can be
good, even manna from heaven. A generation of complainers and naysayers
eventually becomes a generation of tragedy and doomed hopes. Our
generation has been blessed with many great opportunities, not the least
of which is the ability to study Torah and to live in the Land of Israel.
These opportunities should be grasped and treasured.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org
Visit www.rabbiwein.com for a complete selection of Rabbi Wein's books and tapes.