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The Good Old Days

07/01/2020 04:45:07 PM



These past few months, my family has been using online grocery shopping. Choosing the comfort and safety of our own living room, we have been placing our orders online, and letting someone else go through the aisles finding everything we need. Except it’s not a perfect situation. If the item we need is not in stock, we can either trust the shopper to choose a good alternative, or we can opt out of substitutions. If we allow substitutions, our shopper has to guess whether we really need two toilet bowl cleaners or if we were just being thrifty in choosing the two-pack, or if we choose not to allow substitutions we may end up with only four fifths of the ingredients for dinner that night. Oh, how I long for the good old days when you can look at the shelf yourself and change your meal plan on the fly without ending up with too many, or too few groceries!

In Parshiyot Hukkat-Balak, the Israelites have a similar experience of not knowing how good things have been, until their situation changes. In this week’s portion, Moses’s sister Miriam dies, and immediately afterwards the Israelites find themselves lacking water in the middle of the wilderness. The juxtaposition of these two narratives inspires the midrash of Miriam’s well. According to this non-biblical source, the Israelites merited a water source wherever they camped in the wilderness as a result of Miriam’s righteousness. However, once Miriam dies, the water source vanishes and the Israelites find themselves thirsty. I can imagine the Israelites taking Miriam’s well for granted during her life, and only recognizing how fortunate they were once she passes away and can no longer find water. 

During these trying times, it is an understatement to say that our way of life has been disrupted. As we rely more heavily on technology to maintain physical distancing and limit social gatherings, we recognize how fortunate we were to be able to shake someone else’s hands, see a movie, go on an airplane, or send our children to school without the added risk of the current climate. Who could have imagined four months ago what our new reality would look like? While we certainly can lament the loss of the way of life that we had taken for granted, these moments also offer opportunities for us to look around and recognize the blessings that still remain in our lives. If we wait for them to disappear, then we shortchange ourselves from fully appreciating them when they are present. Perhaps we can learn from the Israelites and do well to remember that nothing lasts forever and we should appreciate our lot in life. 

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784