What are your priorities? 

It feels like there are a hundred things pulling us in different directions every day.   Our boss, our parents, our friends, that guy arguing with us on Facebook…  Where do we put our energy?  How do we allocate our time?

In this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people is approaching the Land of Israel after all these years.  Yet, two tribes request to change the plan.  They ask to acquire land on the East bank of the Jordan River instead of the West side which the rest of the Jewish people would inherit for the generations. 

They have a back and forth with Moses about if it’s ok and what they would have to do to get this land.  Then the Torah records their plans for the new land they are seeking:  

They approached him and said, ‘We will build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our children.’

Bamidbar 32:16

Moses accepts their proposal, but he makes one change in the language.  He says:

So build yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your sheep, and what has proceeded from your mouth you shall do.

Bamidbar 32:24

What did Moses change in the wording?  He listed their children before their sheep.  He switched the order of priorities. 

He was telling them, ‘you can get more land for your livestock, but don’t forget to build an environment for your children first. Don’t follow your priorities backwards.’

We sometimes think we can and should do everything in our lives, and sometimes we even can, but in a world with so many things competing for our attention there is a real risk of not getting to the end of our lists. 

If you might not finish your list today, which things are the most important?  Not just the most urgent (as in, if you don’t do it right now you’ll miss it), but the most important (as in, it brings the most value to you when you do it). 

It might be urgent to keep up with the news before it’s old news, but it’s important to take your son to the park, even if you could do it just as well tomorrow.  It’s more urgent to finish that argument on Facebook, but it’s more important to spend time contemplating your values.

Ask yourself.  What are your priorities?  And just as significantly, are you prioritizing them?

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Altonaga and the JET Team