Moses was the quintessential leader. He fearlessly served our people as a shepherd, teacher, coach and of course a prophet at every moment of every day. Time after time he represented us before G-d, he defended us before G-d, and he argued with G-d on our behalf. Perhaps most important, he implored G-d to give us the Torah. The Torah was a spiritual secret. It was in the domain of the Angels who refused to give it up. The Torah was handed down to the world we live in only because of the arguments and negotiations of Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe, with his great leadership acquired G-d’s greatest gift to the world.
There were many great prophets in Jewish history – Abraham, Shmuel. Yeshayahu, Jeremiah – but none took it upon themselves as did Moshe Rabeinu to make sure that we are a free people; that we remain the chosen people; and that Hashem will always consider us His children. Moshe was not only a prophet he was our shepherd and our teacher.
At the foot of Mount Sinai when the Jews so horribly violated G-d by building an idolatrous calf made out of gold, it was only through Moshe’s dramatic plea with G-d “forgive them or erase me from Your book” that G-d continued to consider the People of Israel His special and chosen people.
Given the unconditional, relentless love and leadership of Moshe his statement in this weeks parsha leaves us in shock.
The Children of Israel wept before Moses, and said “Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge; and the cucumbers, leeks, melons, onions and garlic. But now we have nothing to hope for but this manna.”
Moshe’s uncharacteristic response: “I alone cannot carry the burden of this people – it is too heavy for me! If this is how you deal with me then just kill me now!”
What happened to our fearless leader for whom no burden was too heavy and nothing tried his patience? Why did the demand for ‘fleishigs’ seem to cross the line of tolerance and change Moshe’s entire attitude?
A thought from my own life: when it comes to people we love we will do anything. We will feed them, clothe them, and shelter them no matter what it takes.
But, what happens when the child, brother, or fellow human being turns back to you and says “why didn’t you give me more?!” “Why did you hurt me?” “You have done nothing for me!”
Total ingratitude changes the goal posts. Who can continue to help a people when after risking your life they say “you have done nothing for me?” It was so ugly that Moshe said to G-d, “Why don’t You just kill me now?!”
G-d however, pointed Moshe in a new direction. “You are their leader, you are their teacher. It is your job to not only help the people in the face of ingratitude but little by little you must teach them to change. Talk to them about appreciation; learn with them the possibility of growth.”
And a new paragraph was added to the job description and the yearning of Moshe and every Jew: Do the right thing just because it is the right thing – no matter how negative the response may be.
Like G-d Himself, we don’t help people in order to receive hugs of thanks, (although it would be nice once in a while). Don’t do kindness because of what the recipients are – we do kindness because of what we are.
May G-d always grant us unconditional love.