Never forget a kindness that someone performs for you, not even 80 years later!
This week’s Torah portion is Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:17).
Towards the end of the Torah portion we read about an episode involving Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. The Torah tells us that Miriam had spoken evil of her sister-in-law, Moses’ wife, Tzippora. Actually, she spoke negatively about the marital relationship of Moses and Tzippora.
Miriam was upset that Moses and Tzippora lived a life of separation and abstinence. The reason for this, however, was because Moses had to remain in an extreme state of purity, which is compromised by marital relations. Obviously, Miriam did not realize the awesome responsibility and requirements that were places upon Moses as one who was able to communicate freely with God Almighty. Moses’ and Tzippora’s separation bothered Miriam tremendously.
Although Miriam truly meant well, she was punished nonetheless. She was stricken with a Divinely induced skin disease known as “tzaraat”, often translated as “leprosy”. When someone was stricken with Tzara’at, he or she was declared impure and sent to live outside the camp for seven days– for away from everyone else.
But something special occurred regarding Miriam’s tzara’at. Instead of the Jewish people continuing with their travels in desert, the entire nation camped, and waited out the entire week until Miriam became pure once again. That’s right, over one million people stopped in their tracks and took the week off in their travel plans so as not to leave Miriam behind.
What did Miriam do to deserve this honor?
Our sages teach us that this was Miriam’s “payback” for having placed her brother baby Moses onto the Nile. When Miriam placed Moses on the Nile, she didn’t simply leave him to float aimlessly in his basket by himself. Instead, she waited in the bushes watching his basket float and waiting to see what would become of him. Who would find him? What would they do with him? She cared for her little brother and did not simply place the basket in the water and walk away.
As such, the nation of Israel didn’t walk away from Miriam either, during her time of need. But here’s the amazing thing: Miriam’s act of kindness took place EIGHTY years prior to the episode in this week’s Torah portion. EIGHTY YEARS!
The message is clear: Acts of kindness aren’t taken for granted. Feelings of appreciation and reciprocity do not diminish. In Judaism, acts of kindness, reciprocation, appreciation, acknowledgement, DO NOT EXPIRE. The Torah is telling us to never forget a kindness that someone performs for you, and to reciprocate whenever possible – even 80 years later.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!