Shabbat Message from Rabbi Metz

June 21, 2019
By Beth Mordecai
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Shabbat Message from Rabbi Metz

Often, when we remember the past, we only remember the best parts.

I was recently speaking with a friend. She shared a story with me about her childhood when her family was not financially secure. For years, their main pieces of furniture were plastic and metal folding outdoor chaise lounges. These were the kinds with the woven plastic strip of fabric. They had plastic milk cartons for side tables. Her parents always worried about being able to pay the bills and feed the family.

When my friend spoke of the past, she said that she would go back to those days if she could. She did not remember the electricity being shut off, her parents trying to ration food and feed her and her siblings or the constant stress of living in poverty. She remembered this time with great nostalgia, focusing on the positive parts. She remembered only the joy of playing with her siblings, and the fun they would have picking wild blueberries and strawberries near their house.

It is good to look to the past with nostalgia and to leave those worries and stressors behind yet that outlook must also help us to see our current blessings. When we only see the goodness of the past, we can never be content with what we have. When the past always seems better than the present, we continuously are yearning to go back, and we miss the joy in front of us.

In our Torah portion, B’Ha’alotcha, the Israelites, are wandering in the desert. They grew tired of the manna provided or sustenance from God. The people complain

“Who will feed us meat?We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” Numbers 10:4

The people remember these foods from their time in Egypt, yet they do not remember the unbearable work of their slavery. While one cannot move forward if they continue to dwell in past negative experiences, it is also crucial that we remember our hardships, so we do not return to them. When the Israelites look to their time in Egypt and long to go back, they lose their gratitude to God for bringing them out from slavery. They only remember the positive aspects of life in Egypt, and the present difficulties of wandering in the wilderness then becomes unbearable.

True, wandering in the wilderness was not easy. God did provide for the people. They were not forced to toil under the hot sun only for the benefit of the Egyptians. They were traveling to their promised land. They were free to worship God, to live in families, tribes, and communities.

In our lives, it is essential to look back and remember the sweetness of the past. It is ok to overlook the stress and difficulties. Yet, we cannot completely forget them. We must recognize how we have grown, and our lives are better. If we do not do that, we will forever be living in the past, only wishing to go back. We must recognize our blessings in the current time.

I would love to hear from you about a time you look back on with great nostalgia and how your life has changed for the better today.  Please email me at

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Metz

Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Shabbat