Dvar Torah - Behaalotcha
To err is human, to forgive is divine" - ancient proverb.
Technology is amazing. It has lengthened our lives and made us more prosperous and healthier. However, technology also comes with a curse. The modern internet never forgets. It remembers all of our mistakes. And sometimes, they come back to haunt us years later. Humans weren't designed to live in a world where our every utterance is forever.
The Torah understands this problem. It understands that sometimes mundane decisions and issues can have significant downstream consequences. As such, the Torah creates pressure valves that allow for mistakes to be appropriately handled and positively incorporated into our lives. This week we read about one of the most famous of these accommodations.
The Torah tells the story that some Jews in the desert were impure when the second ever Pesach sacrifice was to be brought, so they could not take part. They came to Moshe and begged him to find an accommodation so they could feel like a part of the community. Hashem told Moshe they were right and created a second Pesach sacrifice a month later for people who had missed the first.
Why were there Jews who were impure in the desert? Our rabbis explain that these were the cousins of Moshe and Aharon who had removed Aharon's sons from the Mishkan after they died when bringing a "strange offering" deep into the holy of holies. It wasn't even their mistake, yet they were now being punished for helping (literally) to clean up. The consequences of poor decisions rolled on, but it wasn't fair for Mish'ael and Eltzaphan to miss out.
We learn here an important lesson. The world is not perfect, and neither are the people who inhabit it. We are constantly dealing with the consequences of those imperfections. However, we have a choice. We can choose to be kind, forgiving, and forbearing. We can decide to make room for others' imperfections as we hope they would make room for ours. Alternatively, we can be demanding and exacting, requiring that others never make mistakes. The choice is (as ever) ours; however, G-d has made his preferences known. If our society were to take this lesson, we would all be better off.