At a recent Shabbat Service, the Rabbi spoke to the congregation about the way G-d responded to the Children of Israel when they sinned. In Moses’ absence, the Children of Israel built a graven image and prepared to worship it. This was probably the worst thing they could have done and their behavior angered G-d. His reaction went beyond normal; it was one of extreme anger. In fact, G-d wanted to smite the Children of Israel immediately for their sin.
Of course we know that Moses stepped in and pleaded with G-d to spare the people. Moses reminded G-d of all the things the people had done right, all the mitzvoth they had fulfilled without question or complaint, and begged that they be spared in spite of this great wrong. Luckily for us, G-d heard Moses, and spared the Children of Israel, making it possible for us to be here today.
This message hit me right between the eyes.
As a parent, I am constantly seeing all the wrong things that my children do, and with five children ranging in age from pre-teenager to infant, there can be a lot of “wrong” things on any given day. It is not unusual in my house to have the three year old throw a handheld electronic device at the head of her oldest brother, or to see the younger boy tackle his older sister in an attempt to grab a coveted toy. Even worse than the physical attacks are the verbal ones that I witness. To hear my children tell their sibling that they “hate” them or that they are “stupid” is distressing, to say the least. And, though I am not proud of it, but because of these behaviors, I often find myself angry enough that “smiting” them seems a viable option.
Okay, not really. No, not even close. But I do experience that high-blood-pressure-jaw-clenched-talking-through-gritted-teeth kind of angry at times.
What I need to internalize from the Rabbi’s message is that there is always something good. That is, I need to stop looking to “destroy” the children for one grievous wrong, when there are many things that they do right. Especially the little “rights” that they do, like when the oldest takes it upon himself to read a story to his sister. Or when the older girl makes a surprise snack for her siblings. Or, even better, when I overhear the whispered compliments being passed back and forth between the siblings. These behaviors fill my heart with joy.
The Rabbi also spoke of another part of this story. That when we allow ourselves to become mired in all the negatives, they overtake our lives and become all that we can see or even seek. We become so intent and used to searching for the negatives that we find it impossible to see all the positives that are around us.
As a parent, it seems it would be more productive to follow more closely in the footsteps of Moses (while fully admitting and accepting the fact that I am not even close to being the tzadik that Moses was.) But, I should learn from him and his actions. I should learn to see the benefits of actively seeking the positive behaviors so that they can be weighed against the negative ones.
In the world of small children, the tiniest positive behavior should carry twice the weight of even the most horrible of negative behaviors. If Moses can help G-d to see this, then surely he can help me to see it as well.