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Torah Parsha Matot/Masei

"GETTING OUR PRIORITIES RIGHT"

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Upon viewing the luscious cattle feeding land on the East of the Jordan River, the tribes of Reuven and Gad approach Moses for permission to permanently settle there. Moses agrees on condition Reuven and Gad spearhead the military conquest of the Land of Israel on the west of the Jordan River. Approaching Moses they declare ‘Let us build enclosures for our cattle and cities for our children, and we will zealously go (to war) to the frontline ahead of the Sons of Israel…’ Moses responds in the affirmative ‘Build cities for your children and enclosures for your cattle…’ Our sages ask why Moses changed around the original order? They first mentioned enclosures for their cattle before mentioning cities for their children and Moses then inverted the order?

Our Sages point out that Moses was effectively rebuking them for having skewed priorities. They valued their material possessions more than their sons and daughters. Moses rebuked them and instructed them to get their priorities straight. This sounds horrific, people who care more about their possessions than their own offspring? As horrific as it sounds, I think I can confidently state that most of us are guilty of the same skewed priorities. It is a trap that ensnares most of humanity.

The work demands of our modern society are many - the cost of living is high and the pressure to keep up with the Jones’s is intense. Our society values and respects material wealth and luxury as the ultimate ideal. The cost of private Jewish education is a very difficult burden for many families to carry. The priority struggle of Reuven and Gad is real and acute. There are difficult priority questions we are constantly faced with”: ‘Am I getting so lost and consumed in my work activities that I am neglecting my family and their needs?’ ‘Do I sacrifice amassing material security at the cost of my children’s education?’ An honest reflection on the above reminds us that like the tribes of Reuven and Gad, we too need regular priority checks. It is certainly not as easy at it seems.

Friends, let us shift our focus from a world focused on material gain and invest our resources and energies in our sons and daughters, our future.

Tue, January 28 2020 2 Shevat 5780