Weekly Words of Torah: Parashat Beha’alotekha

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields
WLCJ Executive Director
In this week’s Torah Reading, Parashat Beha’alotekha, we read about Miriam being stricken with leprosy, in Hebrew called tzar’at, which in Biblical times was thought to be a punishment for speaking badly about someone, in Hebrew motzei shem ra, or, in other words, a punishment for gossiping. So, what was Miriam gossiping about? Most commentators agree that Miriam was talking to her brother Aaron about her brother Moses. Many commentators say that Miriam may have been talking about Moses’s wife, Tzipporah, and the fact that she was a Kushite – a dark skinned woman. There is another interpretation that states that Miriam was talking about her brother Moses’ relationship with his wife, and how he worked so much, and spent so much time leading the children of Israel, and did not pay enough attention to his wife Tzipporah. Miriam was concerned that her brother was overworking – and ignoring his family, and especially his wife, Tzipporah, according to this interpretation.
This commentary most likely resonates with so many of us, as we try to have a life/work balance. I graduated from Barnard College – I am woman – hear me roar! We can do it all – have a career, find a partner, create a family, work up the career path. But sometimes, figuring out how to keep all this in balance can be very hard. We become jugglers; prioritizing what and who comes first, and what happens? Often things just come tumbling down, and nothing gets caught properly. In the end – what does the flight attendant tell us? In case of an emergency – make sure you put your oxygen mask on first, before helping anyone else. We need to take care of ourselves first, before we can be any good for anyone else. Perhaps Miriam was telling her brother Moses to pay more attention to his wife and family, but maybe Miriam also taught herself, at the same time, that she needed to step back and take care of herself. During her healing from her leprosy, Miriam too had to take care of herself, and then she could take care of her little brother also.
WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah will be a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.