Bundy Family Values?!

As the armed standoff between outlaw gunmen and federal law officials at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon winds down, I was struck by a comment made by one of the militia members.  Apparently, one of the militia members was live-streaming his conversations with other armed protesters throughout the standoff.

After they received the news that their leader Ammon Bundy had been arrested, there was a conversation about whether to continue the occupation of the Refuge’s visitor center.  One of the occupiers said he was ready to be with his wife.  Bundy made a statement through his attorney in which he told his followers to “go home and hug your families.”

It’s not easy to save the free world from tyranny and oppression when you miss your spouse and children.  So, it sounds like they are going to bring their unpaid-for, illegal camping trip to an end.  I hope that they pay the price for their foolish and reckless actions in all ways possible.

Although I disagree with these men on just about everything, I have to give them credit for recognizing the importance of family – no matter what we do for a living.

We are, of course, reminded of this value in this week’s Torah portion, Yitro.  Yitro (or Jethro in English) was the Chieftain of the Midianite People, but more importantly for our purposes, Moshe’s father-in-law.

Our portion starts out with Yitro appearing at Moshe’s tent at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  He didn’t come alone, though.  He brought with him his daughter Tzipporah as well as his two grandsons Gershom and Eliezer.  He came to remind Moshe that these were his wife and two sons.  As important as Moshe’s work was – bringing plagues, splitting seas, etc. – his family was pretty important too.

Moshe took the hint.  He also accepted some other advice from Yitro about how to organize and govern his unruly flock.

Most of us are NOT the leaders of a nation.  And we are (hopefully!) not engaged in the occupation of federal lands.  However, we all allow ourselves to get pulled into our work – either paid or unpaid – at the expense of our families.  Although this week’s Torah portion is best known for the Ten Commandments which appear at the very end, I think that this lesson about families at the very beginning may be the most important teaching in the entire portion.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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