Our Children and Family Come First

Yael Eckstein  |  July 6, 2021

Yael and family at model Sabbath

“Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.” — Numbers 32:24

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Matot-Massei, from Numbers 30:2–36:13. Matot means “branches,” and Massei means “journeys.”

As a mother of four who also leads an international humanitarian organization, I find myself thinking a lot about priorities. Whether I’m traveling and am away from my family for days or weeks at a time, or just thinking through all the important decisions that need to be made on a daily basis, I am constantly reminding myself that as a mother, my children and family come first.

Near the end of Israel’s forty-year journey through the desert, the tribes of Reuben and Gad came to Moses with a request. They wanted to settle on the eastern bank of the Jordan river because the land was so lush for grazing their animals. They asked Moses, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children” (Numbers 32:16).

Children and Family Come First

Did you catch that? In their request, they put their livestock first, then their families. While Moses eventually gave them permission to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan, he taught them an important lesson in his response: “Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.” The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, “We your servants will do as our lord commands.  Our children and wives, our flocks and herds will remain here in the cities of Gilead.” (32:24-26)

Moses put their wives and children first, before their possessions. Moses saw the danger in a community that prioritizes possessions over children. He reminded these tribes that our children and family need to come first. And we see from their response to Moses that the tribes understood; they put family first.

We all have goals and plans for what we want to accomplish in life, but we can’t let those plans get in the way of what matters most. As Moses’ response reminds us, our children and family must come first.

Your Turn:

Is there someone in your life — a child, a grandchild, or a spouse — who needs to know that they are your priority?

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