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Parshat Matot: More money, more problems

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“Build towns for your children and pens for your flocks, but do as you have promised” (Bamidbar 32,24).

When I was in college, I remember enjoying flipping through the pages of the magazine “Adbusters.” Though the editors and writers were radically anti-capitalist, their criticism of corporate advertising was creative and on-point. I remember one graphic where they had the entire alphabet spelled out graphically with the first letter of different brands, i,e., the “A” from All Clothing Detergent, the “B” from Bubblicious Bubble Gum, “C” from Cheerios, etc. Their goal was to show the reader how deeply these companies had indoctrinated us to recognize their products; it was a bit scary.

This message relates all the more so today. Consumer culture in the West is rampant, and one can lose oneself in the endless desire for purchasing. Not only that, but the consumer culture seems to have shifted from acquiring specific items, to the simple act of buying itself as the goal. It is not what we buy, but rather only that we buy.

I’m not suggesting asceticism here, and the Jewish tradition has always utilized the things of this world towards our Divine service. But it’s important to make sure that our drive for acquisitions does not cause us to lose focus of our deeper values.

It is this exact lesson, as relevant 3,500 years ago as it is today, that Moshe teaches in this week’s parsha.

Moshe appoints 12,000 soldiers to take revenge against the Midianites, who cynically used their daughters to seduce men in the Isralight camp........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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