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Parashat Beha’alotcha: Someone to Lean on in Difficult Times

Parashat Behaalotcha places us in a complicated moment in the journey of the people of Israel in the desert. Many well-known episodes have already occurred: the Golden Calf, the Giving of the Torah, various complaints from the people of Israel who do not adapt to the desert and being masters of their own freedom.


In this case, there is a complaint that, when read, seems out of place. The people of Israel complain about the cucumbers, the seasonings, and the supposed “delicacies” they received for free as food in Egypt. It is as if the slavery they lived under did not carry any real weight, and the important things were these superfluous items.


Moses gets tired. Moses is already a leader who is exhausted by this people who never stop complaining, who even ask for cucumbers despite the included slavery. It is then that he communicates with the Holy One, Blessed be He, and says: I do not want this anymore, take my life. What is this that you do with me? I did not create these people. I did not give them life. Why do I have to take care of them like a nanny, carrying them from one place to another? If you want to give them the promised land, give it to them. But why involve me in this?


It makes no sense. Moses despises what the people of Israel ask for and wants to take his own life because he sees no alternative. He sees no way out of the situation with these people who do not fully appreciate their freedom.


The interesting thing is the Lord's response. He asks Moses to create what would later become the Sanhedrin, the body of 70 sages, to help him carry out this enormous task of sustaining these people in an unsustainable situation. A people who do not learn, a people who find it difficult to recognize the greatness of their God and find it hard to acknowledge that what is coming is much better than what they had before.


What the Lord does is put a hand on Moses' shoulder and advises him on how to do things. It is interesting because commentators say that the Lord becomes something like a friend, not just a father, but a friend who is with Moses, advising him on how to lead these people. He does not get angry at Moses' response. He does not get angry at the condemnation of saying enough, take my life. He advises him: free yourself a bit from this burden, free yourself from the yoke you are subjected to with these people and rely on the 70 sages.


And indeed, that is what it is about. Looking for someone to lean on in difficult times.


Chapter one of Pirkei Avot in Mishnah 6 says that we must have a teacher and acquire a friend, have a friend by our side. And from these friendships, we will find support. We are not a people of individuals, we are not a people of lone leaders who carry things forward; that is why we have minyan, that is why we have community, that is why we care about Tikkun Olam, that is why we care about Tzedakah, about social justice, so that the world functions correctly and we can grow and each reach our own promised land and the promised land of all the people of Israel and the whole world.


Let's do it. Let us have a teacher; let us consider and be considered a friend in whom we can lean.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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