So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. — Numbers 12:15
The Torah portion for this week is Behaalotecha, which means “when you raise up,” from Numbers 8:1–12:16, and the Haftorah is from Zechariah 2:14–4:7.
I once heard a story about a young expectant mother working in Israel who was afraid that she might lose her job once she delivered her baby (this was before Israel had enacted laws regarding maternity leave). This woman was the sole supporter of her family as her husband had recently lost his job. During an informal lunch gathering at work, the woman mentioned her predicament to her co-workers in earshot of the company’s owner, Mr. Fleisher. However, Mr. Fleisher showed no signs that he had heard anything.
Shortly afterward, the conversation shifted, and the employees began talking about where their families had come from and how they had arrived in Israel. Suddenly Mr. Fleisher showed interest as the young woman talked about her roots in Brooklyn. He wanted to know details about where she lived and her grandfather’s name — even what synagogue he had attended. The woman was taken aback but supplied all the information. Abruptly, Mr. Fleisher left the room and returned a few minutes later with red eyes.
Tearfully he explained to the young woman how his father, who had been an electrician, died, leaving the family penniless. There was another, more successful Jewish electrician in the community, who had been friends with his father. Upon the loss of his colleague, this man filled the family’s bare cupboards for weeks. Then he spent a month going through the deceased man’s old supplies and selling them, giving every penny earned to the widow and her family. Mr. Fleisher explained that the man who had done all this kindness for his family was this woman’s grandfather. He concluded, “You will always have a job here, and I’ll give your husband one, too.”
King Solomon wrote, “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). In other words, the kindness that a person does today returns to him or her; it’s only a matter of time.
In this week’s reading, we learn that Miriam spoke inappropriately about her brother Moses, and as punishment, was struck with leprosy and quarantined for seven days. The children of Israel had been about to travel, but the Clouds of Glory did not rise, signaling the time to travel, in honor of Miriam. Over 80 years earlier, Miriam had waited at the Nile to see that her brother Moses would be found and taken care of. Now, because of that kindness, 600,000 people waited respectfully for Miriam so that she would be cared for.
I want to encourage us all to go the extra mile when it comes to being kind. Kindness is like a boomerang; eventually, it will make its way back to you when you are in need.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President