In this week’s Parsha we learn that the Egyptians were frightened by the rapid growth of the Jewish nation. As a result, the Egyptians were worried that if war were to break out, the Jews would join their enemies. The Midrash cites that Pharaoh then called his three chief advisors: Bilam, Job, and Jethro, to ask their advice on how to deal with the impending issue. Bilam advised killing the Jews, and he himself was later killed. Job kept quiet, and he was punished with a life of suffering. Jethro ran away and was rewarded with descendants who became the heads of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court.
One might infer that Bilam deserved a far greater punishment than Job, since Job didn't commit an active crime. However, it appears that Job's punishment was even greater than that of Bilam. While Bilam suffered a quick death, Job had to undergo suffering for an entire lifetime, which no other man had experienced. To be alive is the greatest gift possible, therefore, to suffer an entire lifetime is a huge punishment.
Life is full of various opportunities. We are living in challenging times, but with this new year upon us we can decide to make 2021 a year full of connection and kindness. We can find the time in our days to check up on the elderly, our friends, and our family. It is a gift to have these people in our lives and we must not take it for granted. Despite the pain and challenges we face every day, life is still infinitely greater than death.
Being alive means that you're accomplishing and growing. Every moment in life is a priceless opportunity to grow and to create a connection with G-d.
Moses understood the unique treasure that is life. He realized that life was full of possibilities for growth and learning. He was not raised in a Jewish household, yet he still found G-d and a way to bring himself back to his roots. G-d's presence was eventually revealed to Moses in the form of fire in the burning bush. So too, even when one goes “off the derech” (off the Jewish path) they can always find a way to come back, and G-d is always finding new ways to draw us near.
A flame always points up in an attempt to reach G-d. Every Shabbat when we light the Shabbat or Havdalah candles, we can view it as a symbol of the spark of G-d inside each of us, and the gift of life that we have received.
Tonight, when you light the Shabbat candles, look up and think about the bigger picture in life. Find your spark or flame by considering what difference you can make, no matter how small the deed. Set a goal for yourself as a new year's resolution, because every act of kindness can lead to a better world.
BBYO JHB: Maya Izaki and Noah Leibowitz
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
My answer to a peculiar APUSH conversation about altering a national monument.
Parshat Yitro gives us the Ten Commandments. It makes us think about what G-d has commanded of us, and what the Mitzvot are. This leads to further interpretation of how we can incorporate them into our own practices, in ways that make sense for own religiosity.
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