לֹֽא־אוּכַ֤ל אָנֹכִי֙ לְבַדִּ֔י לָשֵׂ֖את אֶת־כל־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֥י כָבֵ֖ד מִמֶּֽנִּי׃
I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me.
The crisis in this week’s Torah portion, Baha'alotecha, was not the first big challenge Moses had faced in leadership. It was the fourth. Moses has reached the limit of his patience. He is in despair as is evident in his words to God:
Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you, that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat’. I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now – if I have found favour in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin.
The outburst appears to be a complete breakdown. Have you ever been in that place? Have there been times when you have worked hard to succeed and it doesn't seem like you are really making a difference? It's upsetting when you want to accomplish something and feel that you are not having an impact. The despair can be so heavy that you just don't want to go on. We see that despair in Moses' outpouring of emotion to God. Like Jonah, he asks for death rather than suffer the feeling of failure.
Having a vision about what you are moving toward and trying to impact is integral. Measuring your progress towards that vision helps you understand the challenges and increments of success. When the reality doesn't line up with your vision, a sense of failure can damage your self image. God's solution for Moses was to share the spirit of prophesy across 70 elders. This allowed the vision to be shared and championed by more leaders in the community.
Sometimes you just need other people on your team, in your cheering section, in your camp, that get you. People that see and appreciate that your vision can change everything for the better. We can also be that for others, lifting each other up and finding the sparks, instead of focusing on the shells surrounding them.
Cantor Paula Baruch