We often talk about how the pain of the present can affect future generations, but we don’t often think that our past can feel our current pain. This week our Torah portion sends us a hopeful message, especially as we’re finally renewing relationships with people in person.
If there are atrocities, if there is corruption, by all means, call it out. On the other hand, private, deliberate, and strategic rebukes have their places too. It doesn’t seem to be the preferred method in an age driven by social media and every minute news, but if this week’s Torah portion teaches anything, it’s that the measured response deserves a seat at the table.
Like Joshua and Caleb reminding the Israelites how strong and courageous they are, Parshat Shlach Lecha is a reminder that our perspectives of ourselves are sometimes so skewed that they leave reality in the dust. As we reopen our communities and see each other more often face to face, let’s remember that the version of someone you’re seeing might not be the version of themselves they saw for the last 15 months.
We tend to base our interactions with other people on our history with them and on situational context, but Parshat Beha’alotcha teaches us that our work as citizens of the world is to extend generosity, love, and compassion everywhere, especially when there is struggle or strife. You would want the same extended to you.
The most well-known piece of Parshat Naso is the Priestly Blessing. More important than the blessing itself is simply the idea that there is no peace unless all of us are seen. Just as God cannot grant us peace without first facing us as we are, we too cannot create peace among ourselves until we are all seen, until we are all heard.
Did you ever have a collection of dolls or action figures or baseball cards you weren't supposed to play with? The census in this week's Torah portion reminds us that each of us is a “collector’s item" in a way. How different the world might be if we all saw and admired the one-of-a-kind uniqueness in everyone.
It’s the snowball effect, not the snow itself, that I’m reminded of in this week’s Torah portion. Whether it’s a global pandemic or a cycle of systemic oppression, when enough “snow” builds up and starts rolling away from us, it can quickly get out of hand. Like a snowball, problems are easier to control when they’re manageable in size.