B’HaAlotkha: Asking for Help and Delegating to Others
The burdens of leadership can be hard. At Ramah, we try to teach leadership. Two key lessons we transmit are to ask for help and to delegate to others.
In this week’s parsha, B’HaAlotkha, Moshe is overwhelmed by the complaints of the Israelites in the desert. He tells God that it is too hard for him to do it alone. What happens next is very interesting and instructive.
First, it is interesting to note that Moshe uses highly dramatic language in asking for help. He basically tells God to kill him because he can’t do it anymore. I find it interesting to observe when God does or does not get upset with Moshe and/or the people. In this case, God sees the merit of what Moshe asks and devises a plan to delegate authority to the seventy elders of Israel. God gathers these elders at the Tent of Meeting and takes some of Moshe’s glory and gives it to each of them. They feel prophetic ecstasy and are ready to relieve some of Moshe’s burden.
In order to share power, Moshe needs to be both humble and sure of himself. The next scene illustrates that he is. It tells about two men, Eldad and Medad, who weren’t at the Tent of Meeting when God spread Moshe’s glory but still felt true prophetic vision and were prophesizing in the camp. Joshua was jealous on Moshe’s behalf and wanted Moshe to shut them down. Moshe says something remarkable, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!” At camp, we spread the responsibility of teaching our traditions. Leaders of camp transmit the traditions to the Rashei Edot (unit heads), who transmit them to the madrichim (counselors), who pass these on to the older chanichim (campers), who in turn teach the younger chanichim. Our goal is to empower everyone to take full part in our camp and Jewish traditions.
Of course, even great people feel jealousy sometimes. For example, the parsha tells us that Miriam and Aaron feel slighted, as they were prophets but not included in the same way as the seventy elders. They grumbled to each other, talking Lashon Hara (evil speech) about Moshe’s wife. God punishes Miriam with a leprosy-like affliction and it is left to Aaron to beg Moshe to intercede on her behalf. Moshe graciously does so and Miriam is cured. A key lesson about this year’s theme of “emet” (truth) is noteworthy here. Lashon Hara, by definition, is true information that is wielded to harm. That is why it is so terrible. When we feel slighted or left out, it is hard to resist the urge to lash out and hurt others. Miriam and Aaron were great prophets but still susceptible to this. Perhaps if God and Moshe had been a little more sensitive, they could have explained to Miriam and Aaron what was happening before calling the seventy elders together. And instead of lashing out, perhaps Miriam and Aaron should have approached their brother and told him how hurt they were.
This kayitz, we will work to train the future leaders of the Jewish people and explore the concept of truth and how we can be truthful without being hurtful. Shabbat Shalom!