9: You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel. 10: your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers.
We find ourselves in a remarkable moment as Moshe gathers the entire nation of Israel to enter into a covenant with God. Picture the scene: the prominent leaders of the tribes, the venerable elders, and the influential officers, all standing together with their assistants and helpers, their anticipation palpable. Yet amidst this assembly of dignitaries, the Torah singles out the “woodcutters and water drawers,” individuals from the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder (see Rashi for additional info on these converts). Yet why are these people highlighted in this momentous gathering? Why this inclusive approach, in a world that all too often operates in a top-down fashion, with those at the pinnacle, informing and disseminating the course of events for those below?
But let us challenge the very premise of this question, as who, in God’s eyes, determines the worth or importance of one person over another? Is a family leader inherently superior to a water drawer? Does a person’s socioeconomic status truly define their character? We know all too well that wealth and position do not necessarily equate to goodness. There are individuals with abundant resources who display incredibly positive character, and on the opposite end, there are “simple” people, who are holding up the world with their kindness and virtuous deeds.
In forging a covenant with the Jewish nation, God does not distinguish between the high and low, the privileged and the marginalized. And we should follow suit, judging others solely by their capacity for good. But what, you may wonder, defines a good person? I was listening to a video of Eli Rowe, the inspiring leader of Hatzalah Air, and he states that in this world, there are only two types of people: givers and takers. Every morning, Eli says that he begins his day with a prayer to God saying; “I implore you, let me be a giver today.” Our worth is not determined by our social status, wealth, or titles. Rather, it is defined by our actions and our choices.
In the eyes of the Divine, we are all equal members of the same covenant, each with the capacity to make the world a better place through kindness and generosity. May we strive to be givers, emulating God’s inclusiveness, and compassion, by resisting the temptation to pigeonhole people based on titles, status, or socioeconomic standing.