Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Chukkat, Moses disobeys God’s instructions about sourcing water for the Israelites and, as a result, is banned from entering the Land of Israel with the people he’s been leading through the desert. On the face of it, his punishment seems kind of unfair. At this point he’s worked tirelessly and faced great hardship to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. But despite everything he’s done, he will not get to enjoy or witness the fruits of his labor.
The takeaway: There’s no doubt that Moses must feel heartbroken by this punishment. And yet, as this week’s dvar tzedek author, Rabbi David Singer writes, “Moses still works until the day of his death to bring the people closer to their ultimate goal. He raises a disciple to lead the people after him and works toward their goal as if he, himself, would be entering the land along with them. Most crucially, in the immediate aftermath of his punishment, Moses does not wallow in his loss. Rather, he focuses steadfastly on the task at hand.”
The “to-do”: Moses’ steadfastness and commitment is an inspiration for anyone working in the field of service and social justice. As Singer writes, “the pursuit of global justice can often feel like a desert trek, with no oasis or end in sight. We work tirelessly toward our goals without certainty that we will reach them in our lifetimes. Sometimes, the never-ending struggle without reward overwhelms us.” And yet, like Moses, we have the opportunity to view ourselves and our work as part of a larger goal. Sometimes we will see the outcome, sometimes not. But if we are continuing the struggle, then our work is worthwhile.
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.