By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

We see from this week’s Torah portion that we often take a person for granted and forget how wonderful he or she may be. We often fall into this trap with regard to our spouses as well.

This week’s Torah portion is Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:17). At the very end we read about the unfortunate episode of Miriam, who publicly slandered and criticized her brother, Moses. We are told that God appeared to Miriam and told her to cease her conduct – even if her criticisms may have seemed justified. God told her that Moses was different, that he could not be compared to any other person in the world.

Miriam was punished for her slander by being afflicted with a skin disease known as tzara’at. It appears several times in the Torah. One who was stricken with tzara’at was obligated to leave the camp and live in solitude until the affliction passed, generally after seven days. And so it was with Miriam, she was sent outside the camp for her seven days of affliction.

But here’s what was different about Miriam’s experience: Even when someone was expelled from the camp for having tzara’at, the Jewish people would always continue their wandering in the desert (40 years, remember!). Those who were expelled from the camp would be required to catch up with the nation when the affliction passed. This time, however, the nation camped for seven days. They waited for Miriam to return to the camp before they carried on towards the Promised Land.

Why was this? There was no other “celebrity” or “VIP” in the Torah for whom the nation ever waited to continue wandering following an affliction or excommunication. Why did Miriam deserve this gesture?

It is explained that this honor was bestowed upon Miriam as “payback” for her having waited in the bulrushes so many years ago when Moses was placed in a basket and put to float in the Nile river. She was very concerned for the fate of her brother and remained nearby to see what would be with him. As we know, he was eventually found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, Batya. Miriam waited for him, so the nation waited for her.

Sounds nice, but why did Miriam have to wait over 80 years to receive her reward?

The answer, it is explained, is that maybe, just maybe, it took until then for the Jewish people to truly realize and appreciate the great act of kindness that Miriam had done so many years ago.

Gratitude Often Comes Much Later

Indeed, this is actually an issue that affects all of us. Often, someone will perform a kindness for us, and although we’ll appreciate it and express our gratitude, we may not fully realize the value of the act, or the effort made, until sometime later.

It may be that after Miriam sinned against Moshe, and word got out that God said that “Moses was different, that he could not be compared to any other person in the world” – only then did the people realize exactly how great Moses was! Only then did they realize the importance of Moses, and by extension, Miriam’s act of care, kindness and consideration towards her brother.

We also see from this episode that we often forget a how great a person truly is. In this case, the people had known Moses for many, many years. He was their leader. They saw him on a daily basis. Because of this familiarity, the uniqueness of Moses had worn off. They were too used to him. He had become, perhaps, “just another rabbi.” God reminded them who Moses  really was! And Miriam was recognized accordingly.

We often fall into this trap with regard to our spouses. Think back to when you were first married I bet that during that time you thought that your spouse was the greatest person in the world! You probably wanted to spend every free second with him or her. And now? (Need I say more?) Don’t let your infatuation with your spouse ever wear off! And if it did (temporarily), this week’s Torah portion offers us a great opportunity to reignite the spark!

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: