- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 5, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
“Do as you have promised,” is what Moses told the leaders of the tribes of Reuben and Gad.
The Jewish people had made their way over the course of forty years toward the Jordan River. On the other side was the land God had promised them. As the Book of Numbers comes to a close, the people prepared to cross over to the other side to conquer the land of Canaan. However, these two looked around and realized they preferred to stay where they were, “noting that the lands…were a region suitable for cattle” (Numbers 32:1). They sought the favor of Moses “not to move [them] across the Jordan.”
At first, Moses suspected that they did not want to engage in the difficult challenge that awaited the rest of the tribes on the other side of the Jordan. Moses feared a reprise of when the scouts went into the land forty years previously and returned with fearful reports that made the people want to rebel. With the passage of these four decades, the settlement of the land had to happen and needed all of the tribes to succeed. A negotiation ensued. Their families, flocks, and livestock would remain behind while the leaders and all those recruited for battle would cross over with the remaining tribes.
“Do as you have promised,” is Moses’ response (Numbers 32:24). Hayotzei mipichem, ta’asu! The Hebrew reveals a nuance. “That which has come out from your mouths, do!” What they say has great significance and consequence in addition to what they do.
Earlier in the portion, there are instructions about vows and oaths as it pertains to women. The Torah emphasizes how words that emerge from one’s mouth have great impact for women as well as here, for the men who have approached Moses.
It is a theme that will carry us all the way to Yom Kippur eve when we recite Kol Nidre and recognize the power of our words and assurances we make in our lives.
The Gadites and Reubenites did do as they promised, settled the land and built many cities recorded in the Torah. Then, they went back to their families.
As Shabbat arrives we will offer this prayer: May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable to you O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. May Shabbat help us to practice paying attention to the words we offer from our lips and the actions they may bring.
If you are in town, come celebrate Shabbat together and join us for Qabbalat Shabbat OUTSIDE with plenty of singing, learning, praying, thinking, and COOL BREEZES!
Please feel free to connect with me here. I would be honored to learn of your own reflections and response. I’m grateful to the many people who have already shared their thoughts with me in this way.