There is a story in this week’s Torah portion of an unfortunate soul who lost his bid for salvation in a fit of bitterness and anger. Here goes the story:
In Egypt, the Jewish women, we are taught, were noted for their focus on committed marriages. The women focused on making themselves beautiful for their husbands and ensuring an intact family.
There was one woman, Shlomit bas Divri, so-named not because she was named such..but as a way of explaining her personality. Eager-to-please, out-to-get-acquainted, Shlomit from the word Shalom would walk around greeting all and not stopping there –she was bas divri – out to shmooze up anyone, even the wicked Egyptian overseer. And that became her downfall. You cozy up to a creep, creepy things happen. The overseer decided he had to have her, and, ensured a moment alone with her and had his way. The son born is the man in discussion in this week’s Parsha.
Jewish lineage has two aspects. Whether or not one is Jewish is based on whether or not one’s mother is Jewish (or one can convert to Judaism, if not born to a Jewish woman). The other aspect is about tribal affiliations. That, however, does not go through the matrilineal line, but rather through the father’s side. Hence, this child born to Shlomis was Halachically Jewish, but had no tribe.
In the desert, as the Jews were assigned campsites and when he realized there would be land apportioned in Israel upon entry based on tribal affiliations, he realized he’d be left out. No place to pitch his tent, no dream of having a spot in Israel. He turned angry and bitter. He stormed out and spoke out publicly beyond any borders against G-d who gives us the breath in our nostrils and every blessing we have. Finis to the son of Shlomit.
“But why?” you might protest. And you might even say, “but what should he have done in such an untenable situation?!”
He should have held on and believed in the munificence of G-d. For later on, another individual faced that crossroad. When Yisro converted, he realized he had the same conundrum. He almost crossed himself off of a glorious future by abandoning ship. However, he was persuaded not to – and eventually, a portion of land that would not be allotted to those born biologically Jewish was given to the righteous convert…and he found his spot in the sun.
Much later, Ruth and Orpa did the same contrast. When faced with the fact that they might not be accepted fully within the Jewish nation, Orpa turned her back on truth and headed down the destructive path of bitterness and self-pity. Ruth drew herself to the heights of great dignity and converted to Judaism anyway. The result – she became the progenitor of Moshiach.
When things look hopeless, when circumstances hurt, hold on past the bitterness. Ya’ gotta believe in G-d munificence and kindness. He will make it right…so long as we hold on.