This week we read the double portion of Matot-Ma’asei. In the last half of Matot (“tribes”), we learn that the tribes of Reuben and Gad possessed a great amount of cattle, had been traveling to Israel for 40 years, and wanted to stay behind in other lands they found on the way. They strongly felt that these landswould be better accommodating for their enormous amounts of livestock. They came to Moses with this seemingly innocent request, אֶתהַיְַרדֵּןאַלתַעֲבִרֵנוּ–“do not move us to Jordan.” Moses was incredibly angry that they would try and influence their fellow Israelites to abort mission of this long–desired dream offinally settling in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). Moses reminded them that their fathers, after surveying the Land at Moses’ request, had influenced their people in the same way decades earlier, which resulted in the Israelites being forced into 40 more years of wandering in the wilderness. So they struck a deal with Moses: they would build homes for their families and livestock to stay back in these fortified towns, but they themselves would go out as shock-troops, promising not to return back to these homes until every Israelite possessed a portion of the Land. Moses accepted this offer.
This notion of “do not move us” is a great fear that many of us have, no matter where we are in life.If there is one silver lining that we can gain from this worldwide pandemic, it is that we are ALL in this together. None of us want to be moved, to stop doing the things we love, or seeing those we love. Perhaps it is because many human beings in this world refused to be moved, to change their ways, and to believe the facts and science which told us that we were headed for this. We refused to be moved from our comfort zone of using the earth in any way we saw fit, despite decades of warnings that we have been headed for disaster if we do not entice our government to establish laws to protect the earth and our health.
As we move towards the month of Elul where we will experience the renewal of the Days of Awe,the simcha of the days of Sukkot, and the new beginnings of Simchat Torah, let usreflect on some of the things both we and the whole world have done during this pandemictochange, to move, to try and repair mistakes of America’s past, and to remember that as long as we are human beings on this earth, we will always be moving. Let us remember that the responsibility to care for this planet and live as a society–caring not just for ourselves, but also for our fellow human beings–is ours and ours alone. It is up to us to hold our leaders accountable to protect our world and society, to respect it, and to create legislation to keep it thriving.
This song, “Love the Earth, Adamah, b’shamayim” is a favorite of our Religious School children at Temple Jeremiah. Please enjoy this fun video I made with my kids. It is a favorite song of ours about the Earth that we love to sing in JQuest here at Temple. Sing along with us, and imagine you’re at your absolute favorite place on Earth as we sing!