Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Bamidbar

Will people be proud to be connected to you?

This Shabbat, we commence the reading of the book of Bamidbar. Right at the beginning of the book the Torah provides us with details of the heads of tribes, it says אִ֛ישׁ רֹ֥אשׁ לְבֵית־אֲבֹתָ֖יו הֽוּא – ‘each one of them was the head of a household‘. Rav Moshe Chefetz tells us in his book Melechet Machshevet that there is a message here for each and every one of us. That’s because every one of us is an ‘איש’ – a person, and we should likewise strive to be רֹ֥אשׁ לְבֵית־אֲבֹתָ֖יו – ‘the head of a household’. This means, he explains, that people will be proud to be connected to us and in future generations, people will be proud to be descended from us.

The Maggid of Mezerich, Rav Dov Ber ben Avraham, was the primary disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov, one of the great founders of Chassidism. When he was five years old he came home to find his mother distraught. There had been a fire in their home, it had caused damage but they had managed to put it out. So he said “Mummy, all of us are okay! Nobody died, isn’t that what’s important?” She replied, ”that’s not why I’m crying. You see, we had a document, a piece of paper that was our family tree and we can show everyone how we are descended directly from King David. That document has now gone up in flames.” So the little Dov Ber said to his mother ‘don’t worry Mummy, I will always try to be a good person and please God one day, people will be proud to be descended from me”. That is the message of אִ֛ישׁ רֹ֥אשׁ לְבֵית־אֲבֹתָ֖יו – that we should strive to be outstanding role models,  whom people are proud to be connected to.

I believe that this is always a lesson of importance but particularly right now during The COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since 1945, we have been living in the post-war era, from 2020, we’ll be living in the post virus era. People will be looking to us, the people who endured this very trying and challenging period. We have an opportunity now to set an example, a tone, to show how despite great difficulty, we are acting responsibly, for ourselves and our societies, so that in the future, people will look back and be proud of the role models we have been.

אִ֛ישׁ רֹ֥אשׁ לְבֵית־אֲבֹתָ֖יו – this is the time for us to be the heads of households, to be responsible for ourselves, our families and our communities and indeed for the entire world.

Shabbat Shalom