The sixth portion of Beha’aloscha (Numbers 10:35-11:29) is rich with inspiration and meaning. It talks about the Israelites, and their lack of gratitude towards Moshe Rabbenu and G-d. Rather than focussing on the spiritual nourishment they have been granted, the Israelites bemoan their diet of Manna, and reflect upon what they ate in Mitzrayim; “We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic,” they say, before demanding meat. Needless to say, G-d is furious at His people for acting this way. Two important lessons can be learnt from this; one about Kashrut, and one about gratitude.
Let’s start with the insight on keeping Kosher.
Have you ever walked into a supermarket, and feared your eyes upon the wonderful selection of food there- the food which isn’t Kosher? You gaze upon the selection of fine meats, the hamburgers, even the shellfish… And then you turn to you companion and say, “You know, it’s really not fair I have to keep Kosher. You get to eat all these wonderful things and I’m stuck with boring matzah and borscht!”. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s right- it’s history repeating itself. What exactly is the message here? I’m telling you to view Kosher as a mark of pride; something beautiful; something holy, just like Shabbes. Don’t let’s just view it as restrictions, or we risk turning into the ungrateful Israelites who enfuriated G-d.
(For more on this topic, view my posts “Why we keep Kosher” and “How to enjoy Shabbes”.)
Now for my point on gratitude. It’s pretty obvious that gratitude plays a huge part in this episode. Specifically, my point is about physical v.s spiritual. We tend to concentrate too much on our physical ups and downs; minor things which don’t actually mean anything in the long run, like your food being too salty or missing the bus. This is what the Israelites were doing when they put more emphasis on their food than the Exodus from Egypt, and all that G-d had given them. They weren’t looking in the right place, and in retrospect it’s easy to see this- but how many times a day do we do this in our modern lives?
From today onwards, let’s resolve to focus on the bigger picture, and try to limit our complaints about the less important goings-on.
With thanks to Rabbi Dovid Katz of Chabad NW6 for inspiring this article.