Where Is Your Focus?June 18, 2023 - 12:00 am
“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”— Numbers 20:8
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Chukat, which means “requirement,” from Numbers 19:1–22:1.
At some point, almost every parent has heard the following from their children after saying “no” to a request: “But [friend’s name] has one!” or “But [friend’s name] gets to do that!” I’m sure I said that to my parents when I was a child, and on occasion, I hear it from one of my own children.
Years ago, I developed a strategy to deal with my children feeling entitled to something because of what their friends have or do. When they tell me about their friend’s toy, I ask them about their own toys. I ask them to tell me what they do have, instead of what they don’t. When they tell me about the fun thing their friend did, I ask them to tell me what fun activities our family has done.
I try to take the focus off of what my child thinks he or she lacks and place it instead on their blessings. What I have learned in my own life is that how blessed we feel has little to do with what we have or don’t have, and everything to do with where our focus is.
Where Is Your Focus?
In this week’s Torah reading, we read about Moses’ big blunder. After the death of Miriam, the rock that had provided water for the Israelites for the last forty years dried up. The Israelites complained to Moses about their thirst, and God commanded Moses to speak to the rock so that water would flow from it once more. However, instead of speaking to the rock as instructed, Moses hit the rock. Consequently, he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land.
According to Jewish tradition, initially Moses did speak to the rock. However, he spoke to the wrong rock. God told Moses to speak to the very same rock that had been supplying water all along, but Moses failed to distinguish it from the other rocks. When speaking to the rock didn’t work, and Moses realized that he had chosen the wrong rock, he hit the rock just as he had done years earlier.
According to this explanation, Moses’ mistake was not that he hit the rock; it’s that he didn’t recognize the right rock. Moses’ inability to find the rock that had blessed the people for so many years displayed a lack of gratitude, and that was the root of his mistake.
In Hebrew, the term for gratitude is hakarat hatov. Literally, the words mean “recognizing the good.” God doesn’t ask us to sugarcoat the difficulties in life, but He does expect us to recognize our blessings and to be grateful for them. As I try to teach my children, if we focus on what we lack, we won’t notice how blessed we are. Instead, we need to look for the good in our lives, to recognize our blessings, and to express our gratitude for them.
Where is your focus?
Your turn: Today, challenge yourself to list as many blessings as possible in your life and then thank God for them.