“The Little Things Add Up” by Lauren Shaps


Hey to the Chevra,

Ninety percent of the time, I'm caught up in this very moment or the one soon to follow. Like most busy women, I'm trying to get something that needs doing done, or wondering how and when I'll tackle the rest of my to-do list. It's easy to get so wrapped up in the doing that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Every so often it's good to ask ourselves a few important questions: "What are we doing?" "Why are we doing it?" And a question rarely asked, "How are we doing it?"

So much of our doing has to do with our families. We have the kids. We raise the kids. We feed and water and nurture our families. Big chunks of our days are devoted to work, to errands and to chores. Some days it feels like our tasks are mundane, that the daily routine is a grind and wouldn't it be so much more exciting somewhere else?

In this week's Torah reading, Parashat Chukat, we read of the death of Aaron, the Kohen Gadol(high priest), brother of Moses and Miriam, leader of the Jewish people. Taking a look at the great personalities of the Torah gives us perspective on what is truly meaningful. In so many ways, the Torah teaches us that it's the little things that add up big time. Like a needlepoint that takes many stitches to complete, so too our lives are made up of moments. They don't always feel significant, yet when we look back on the life of any person, every one of those moments adds up to the sum of their character.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avot devotes one line to a description of Aaron. We might think that theMishna would focus on his leadership or his service of G-d in the Tabernacle that traveled with the Jewish people. Yet when the Mishna sings the praises of Aaron, it tells us that he was "oheiv shalom and rodef shalom." He loved peace and he pursued peace.

Why would the Mishna single out that attribute to praise? Was he just another all-round good guy? The Mishna tells us specifically that it was more than just loving peace, which we could say about many people. Not only did Aaron love peace, he pursued peace. When peace was elusive, he chased after it. He did everything that he could to make it happen. For Aaron, theKohen Gadol, peace was a defining quality. When he made his choices, or answered the questions of "What to do?" "Why do it?" and "How should I do it?" the pursuit of peace was an integral value and provided fundamental parameters.

The generation that left Egypt and traveled for 40 years through the desert had three great leaders: Moses, Miriam and Aaron. Each had a different type of impact on those around them. Together they guided the Jewish people through an incredibly difficult period of change and transition.

Like Aaron, Miriam and Moses, we too make our mark on others. We too will one day be remembered. We too will leave a legacy. So in the midst of all my doing, I try to stop occasionally and ask myself "Are my actions true to who I think I am?" and "Is my doing in harmony with my values, my goals, my fundamental priorities?" At times like that I remember that I too am a link in the long history of humanity. Like Aaron, I wish to live my values, Jewish values, Torah values, and bequeath that gift to the next generation.

Shabbat Shalom,

Lauren Shaps


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