A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
How many times have you heard your children cry, “It isn’t fair!” Children are born with an acute sense of what is fair and what isn’t. They keep detailed track of who sat next to Mommy and Daddy last week at the Shabbat table, who got the extra piece of cake, and whose turn it is to take out the garbage. The problem is that focusing on what is fair doesn’t make happy people because there is always something in our lives that isn’t fair or that doesn’t match up with our expectations of what we deserve.
Let’s take a look at Numbers 16. Korach was upset that his father’s family had been unfairly skipped over when a younger sibling’s son was appointed to leadership. Surely it would be fairer for the older brother’s family to be honored first? He gathered with him the tribe of Reuven (Reuben) who, in the words of the transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom known as the Kli Yakar, were bitter of soul because many, many years earlier, Jacob had taken away the firstborn privileges from their ancestor, Reuven, and given the privilege of the oldest to Joseph. For generations, they had held onto a spirit of, “That’s not fair!” Korach’s group of discontents were all people who thought they deserved more than they were given, who perceived life as unfair.
That is a very seductive way of thinking and incredibly contagious. Who can’t jump on the bandwagon of something in our lives being unfair? It’s no wonder that Korach was able to quickly attract hundreds of followers, and it’s no wonder that our children so quickly cry, “It isn’t fair”.
But we know that wallowing in victimhood doesn’t lead to a happy life. As parents, our job is to help our children move past the immature perspective that breeds misery when life isn’t fair. How can we do this? I think the answer lies in Moses’ response to Korach and the Levites in this section. Moses says two things. The first is, ”In the morning God will make known that which is His.” God has a plan for each person and He chooses who will be who and who will get what. We don’t get to decide what is appropriate and fair for each person. That is God’s job, and when we accept His decisions as His perfect will to give us exactly what is best for us and to give our friends exactly what is best for them, we can discard discontent and be happy with our portion.
My children and I recently finished reading an inspiring book about the life of a woman in Jerusalem who recently died. One lesson from her life really resonated with us. That is the recognition that whatever happens to you in life, even through other people, such as when someone yells at you, when someone breaks your toys, or any frustration you experience, is directly given to you from God as a way to help you grow in that moment. Our lives are utterly and completely what God gives us and when you live with that consciousness, the whole notion of “Is it fair?” becomes ridiculous. It doesn’t matter at all what someone else has or what I think I should have—I accept that everything I have is perfect for me because God made it so.
Moses’ second argument is, “Tribe of Levi, you have so much greatness that has already been granted to you!“
“Is it is a small matter that God has separated you from the rest of the children of Israel to bring you close to Him to serve in the Tabernacle and to stand before the congregation to minister to them?”
Instead of focusing on what others have that you don’t, take a look at what you’ve been given! Focus on the good that is in your life, the disproportionate good, the good that you have in ways that others don’t! My mother had a great aunt who had a tragic life from beginning to end. Yet my mother recalls that she was the most cheerful woman who, when asked to explain how she could be cheerful in the face of all her hardships, responded, “You can always look over your shoulder and find someone worse off than you.” Moses is calling for a shift in perspective. Don’t look at what you don’t have and others do, look at what you have despite the fact that others don’t. Each of us can think of blessings in our lives that we were given “unfairly.” Each of our children can think of a time they got an extra treat, a special outing, special talents and gifts—focus on those!
I’m sure they can all relate to Korach’s bitterness over not being given what he thought was fair, but we have a powerful opportunity here to share with our children a different philosophy in life, one that will stand them in good stead for years to come.