“The thing you are doing is not right. You will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (Ex 18:17-18)
Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law, gives Moses the staggered-breathing advice when it came to hearing the pleas and complaints of the people out in the wilderness. Moses was the only one hearing their disputes, and he was setting up for quite a backlog. So, Yitro suggested that Moses bring on others to share the load, and they created a system of “thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens” to hear and judge the minor disputes, and the major ones that couldn’t be solved, they would bring to Moses.
I saw something on Facebook the other day, recalling the choral technique of staggered breathing. When there’s a really long note to hold, not everyone can do it for the entire length of the note, but if everybody grabs a breath at some point when one’s neighbor isn’t breathing, it sounds like it’s one continuous note, but the burden is spread out among the chorus. The post was referring to the marathon some of us are running, staying ever vigilant against the vitriol and incompetency coming out of the White House, and its current resident. (Although how often is he really there…he’s gone golfing nearly every weekend since the Inauguration….but I digress, which brings me back to my point.)
We have to stay focused, and we can’t do it alone. I can’t be out there writing letters, postcards, posts, and marching on every topic that concerns me right now. I can’t donate to every cause that is so very important and needs support. But if we all take a piece of the challenge, if we all breathe when our neighbor isn’t, we can stay strong in the face of such overwhelming challenges.
Moses was right to take Yitro’s advice. He would wear himself out if he tried to do it all alone. We will wear ourselves out, too, trying to fight every fight ourselves. Rather, we have to share the challenge so it all gets done. “Make it easier for yourself by letting them share the burden with you. If you do this
.. you will be able to bear up, and all these people will go home unwearied” (Ex 18:22-23) Ramban (13th c Spain) says about the word “unwearied”, rather “ ‘in peace’. Currently being unable to get to you [Moses] to see justice done, no one can rest peacefully.”
We can’t rest until justice is not only done, but secured and protected for all.