We’ve all seen the meltdowns. The child in the grocery store, that moment when you realize you’ve gone on One. Errand. Too. Many. We know how hard it is for the adult in charge, and we resolve to be empathetic, understand, and non-judgmental.
But when about when it’s an adult that has the meltdown? Are we just as empathetic? Do we judge when grown ups flip out?
Exhibit one: Moses’ meltdown. I mean, he really melts down. There was One. Complaint. Too. Many. from the people. Moses heard the people crying, each in their own clans, wanting more meat, more meat. “We really had the good stuff back in Egypt”, they said, “the cucumbers and leeks and onions. Now there’s only this manna stuff, and we’re sick and tired of it!” (paraphrase)
Moses was distressed. He said, “Why have You dealt ill with Your servant, and why have I not enjoyed Your favor, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all this people, did I bear them, that You should say to me, Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant,’ …Where am I to get meat for them?” (Num 11:11-13) Moses says, Hey God – you promised the Land to their fathers, and I’m stuck with carrying it out? And finally, at the end of his meltdown, he says, “I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me.” (Num 11:14)
We’ve all been there. Freaking out, panicking, I can’t take this any more. I’m falling and I’m failing.
There are a couple of different ideas in Moses’ rant. First, it’s “why are You so mean to me? What did I ever do?” Then he moves to, “Is all this my fault, huh?” And then it’s, “How am I going to do this – I can’t give these people what they need. I’m not good enough. I can’t do this.”
We’ve all been there. Those stages of anger and fear and giving up and turning the chess board upside down, stomping out of the room.
Moses needs help, and God tells him how to get it: look around you. There are 70 elders who have leadership experience. Use them. Ask them. Bring them into the holy space with you, and they will share the burden with you.
So many of us feel it’s an admission of failure or weakness to reach out and say, “Help me”, and I think it goes for both men and women. We tell our kids to ask for help, that it’s a sign of maturity to do that, but somehow growing up means growing out of that approach to getting through life.
Torah teaches us to need each other, because we’re not in it alone, and we’re not supposed to be able to go it alone.
By the way, my favorite part of this parasha is what happens next. God acts like a typical parent who has had it with the whining. “You want meat?”, God says, “Fine, I’ll give you so much meat you’ll hate it, it will come out of your nostrils. See how you like THAT!” (paraphrasing Num 11:19-20, but not by much!)
Back to the teaching – need each other. We empathize, and don’t judge. Just be there. Rely on each other. It’s what gets us through the wilderness.