June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42)

Our choices and decisions don’t only affect ourselves. They have an influence on others as well. In this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people were all set to move into the Land of Israel and settle there, when some of the people came to Moses and told him that they would prefer to settle by themselves outside of the land. Moses wanted to accommodate them, but realized that this would make the remainder of the people feel hesitant and scared about going into Israel. So he gave them permission to do as they wanted, but only if they would first come into the land together with everyone else and help the others get settled. Only then could they go back to where they wanted to be. We learn from here the importance of considering how our choices are going to affect those around us.

In our story, a boy learns a lesson about pitching in for the good of the group.

  1. Environmentally Friendly

As it did every Wednesday afternoon, the Blakefield Day School Environmental Club was having its weekly planning meeting. “Good news, guys,” smiled Seth Stewart, the club’s leader. “I just heard from Mr. Lawrence, our principal, that the town council has given us official permission to clean and renovate the old abandoned playground on Coolidge Street!”

The kids cheered. They had started the club to improve the environment in their town, and they had unanimously voted to try to take this on as their major summer project.

“We’ll paint all the playground equipment with bright new colors, plant flowers and trees, and clear out all those cans and broken bottles and the rest of the junk around there,” Seth explained. “The council even gave us a budget to pay for the paint and the other stuff we’ll need. I’ll come around and pick up everyone Sunday morning at 9 a.m. sharp. My mom volunteered to drive us in her van.”

Everyone was really into it and came up with lots of good ideas on how to make the project a success.

Soon enough, Sunday came along and Seth went around picking up the club members. Each kid piled into the van eagerly, armed with rakes, shovels and paintbrushes. They made sure to bring plenty of good snacks and drinks as well, to feed the hungry work crew.

The group pulled up to Danny Folger’s house, the last stop. They honked the horn, then again… and again, but no Danny. After a few minutes Seth jumped out of the van to find out what was holding him up. He knocked and rang the bell. Finally Danny answered the door, still in his bathrobe! He yawned and said, “Sorry, Seth, I can’t make it. I changed my mind about going.”

“What do you mean?” asked a surprised Seth. “Everyone’s waiting outside. Why don’t you want to come?”

Danny blushed. “Well, what difference does it make if I come or not, anyway?” asked the boy, defensively. “Even without me there are plenty of guys left to get the job done.”

Meanwhile the van was honking in the driveway as the kids sitting inside it were growing impatient. Seth was upset about Danny’s decision, but tried to reason with him.

“Listen, Danny, it’s not the point whether or not we could manage without you,” he explained. “It’s that we’re all part of a group. If you decide not to come, it won’t only affect you. It’s going to make the other kids have second thoughts too. Soon nobody’s going to feel like pitching in. It’s important that we’re all in it together.”

“But it’s going to be such a big job!” objected Danny.

Seth smiled. “I know how you feel. It is a big project, but it’s a worthwhile one. And if we all do it together it won’t feel so big either. But if one guy backs out it will make it harder for everyone. So what do you say?” he asked.

Danny thought about it, smiled and said, “Okay. Count me in! I’ll just run upstairs and get into my work clothes.”

A few minutes later Danny joined his friends, jumped into the van, and off they sped to the playground. Once they got there they immediately got working. After a while Seth came over to Danny, who was painting a seesaw. “How’s it going?” he asked.

Danny smiled. “It’s going great. You were right. Even though it is a mountain of work, with us all working together it’s a mountain that’s fun to climb!”

Nesanel Yoel Safran is a writer, chef and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen—and for living. https://soulfoodiecom.wordpress.com/

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