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Be'halot'cha(Numbers 8-12)

Your Focus is Your Freedom

While in the desert, God fed the Jewish people "manna from heaven." Not only was this food effortless and plentifully available, but the Sages tell us that remarkably it tasted exactly like anything the Jews wanted it to taste like.

Not withstanding all of this, the Jews complained and said:

"Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt ... but now ... we have nothing ... but the manna... And the wrath of God flared greatly...." (Numbers 11:4-10)


A LIFE LESSON

How in the world could a group of people who had just been freed after years of slavery, been shown miracle upon miracle, and have every one of their needs provided for, still somehow manage to complain about nothing? The answer lies in the extraordinary way in which God "designed" us.

When it comes to our daily thoughts - which are the precursors to all of our actions - God wired us in a fascinating way. Our minds easily and naturally focus on what we're lacking. This bears repeating. Our minds will easily and naturally focus on what we do not have. It takes actual effort for us to think about the blessings of what we do have.

Our mind can be likened to a garden. The soil will bring forth most anything you want to plant. But ... if you don't plant anything, you won't have any crops and you'll get weeds growing instead. Without the seeds, the land doesn't just remain barren - weeds will grow in abundance.

This analogy is a true gateway to understanding why most people walk around unhappy and with absolutely no zest for life. Unless you make a conscious decision to focus on something positive, then by default your mind will simply and easily drift towards negative and unproductive thoughts.

The Jewish people had been given everything from God - their lives, their freedom, and all of their physical needs were provided for with little or no effort. But instead of being overjoyed beyond belief, (by focusing on what they now had), the Jews allowed their minds to remain barren whereby they "naturally" complained about all the things didn't have.

Because they didn't focus on what they had, God knew that there was no way He could ever make them happy, and the wrath of God flared greatly. There's no amount of blessings that could ever make someone happy if he chooses to not think about them. Everything God gave the Jews made them ecstatic for a day and then their focus switched from elation to what's now lacking. Their entire well-being and attitude diametrically changed as soon as their focus changed.

Imagine that you spent hours cooking a loved one a ten-course meal complete with all of his favorite foods. While eating this meal, he's certain to show you much appreciation. But how would you feel if the very next day he called you and complained that there weren't any strawberries on top of his pie for dessert? How crushed would you be? Is there NO making this person happy? How eager would you be to cook an elaborate meal for this person again? But ... if he was truly appreciative and thanked you for all you did, you would be only too eager to do it all over again.

And this is the powerful life-changing lesson for all of us. For a life of peace and blissfulness, it's absolutely mandatory to take time each and every day to really and truly think about the blessings God showers you with. Remember, a lack of appreciation and awareness is the first step towards unhappiness.

Take the time to really thank the One who gives and gives and stop focusing on the things that at this moment you don't have. Fill your mental garden with only the right kind of thoughts and watch in amazement how you'll have more and more to be thankful for.

Published: June 3, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 11

(10) michael, May 24, 2013 7:37 PM

another opinion

theres a different yet better and more understanding answer (for me). the jews just passed the red sea, saw 10 plagues and incredible miracles, its impossible that they complained about wanting to eat meat!!


answer: they were in such a high level that they wanted to reach higher levels and complained that they wanted to eat meat to have more instinct and yetzer so they could pass it and reach higher levels.....

(9) Esther Talia, June 5, 2012 12:26 PM

So True

I woke up feeling sour this morning and everything I picked up to read (in my devotions and here) told me that Torah study is the answer- the way to real peace. So, I listened and then, reading this (which seemed to speak right to my heart) I laughed at myself. Over and over again God has pointed me toward more observant Judaism as the way to true happiness and deeper meaning in life. Why do I keep forgetting this and wandering all over the place?

(8) Chana, June 13, 2011 4:53 AM

Thank you!

That is a powerful analogy, of the field and what we plant is what it yields!

(7) Steve, June 6, 2011 9:42 AM

Try to be thankful first thing in the morning.

How can we be like David? Learn to throw stones at our worries.

(6) Ben, May 24, 2010 5:10 PM

thank you

As I work on becoming more observant, I often find myself chastising myself (whining to myself, really) for not being able to follow all the mitzvot at once. One of the ideas I got from this essay was that perhaps it is better focus on the gift of the mitzvot that I am adhering to and the blessing of the path laid before me to follow more, rather than focusing on what I haven’t done and allowing that to be a stumbling block. The gifts are always there.

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