SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, June 3, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            We read in Parashat Beha’alotekha of Benei Yisrael’s demand for meat in the wilderness, having quickly grown dissatisfied with the miraculous manna that was provided for them each day.  In response, Moshe cried out to God and bemoaned his fate, his being forced to care for and meet the demands of Benei Yisrael.  God replied by instructing Moshe to appoint seventy men to assist him in leading and tending to the nation (11:16).  He then proceeded to announce that He would be sending the people quail for them to eat.

            At first glance, it appears that the two components of God’s response were directed, respectively, to Moshe and to Benei Yisrael.  In response to Moshe’s frustration in trying to lead such a large and cantankerous multitude, God told him to appoint seventy people to assist him, and in response to the people’s demand for meat, God informed Moshe that He would be providing it.

            Additionally, however, it has been suggested that even the first section of God’s response – the instruction to Moshe to appoint a group of leaders to serve under him – should be understood as directly addressing the people’s complaint for meat.  Although God agreed on this occasion to grant the people’s wishes, He was telling Moshe that ultimately, the solution lies in effective leadership and education.  Even after addressing the immediate concern – the people’s demand for meat – by providing quail, this would not solve the long-term problem of the nation’s discontentment and complaints.  After eating and enjoying the meat, the people would likely, or invariably, complain about something else.  They needed not meat, but rather the skills and mindset to accept their situation even when they had no meat.  And so if Moshe found himself unable to work alone in guiding and teaching the people the vital skill of contentment and satisfaction, then he would need a team of respected leaders to work alongside him.  Ultimately, the solution lay in building the people’s faith, patience, resilience and personal strength, not in providing everything they asked for.  (This point was made by Rav Yissachar Frand.)

            Many times, when we struggle with a certain problem or a lack of something we feel we need, alongside our efforts to resolve the situation we must also try to “educate” ourselves, to make a genuine attempt to feel joyful and content despite the difficulties we confront.  It is all but certain that once one problem has been overcome, there will soon be another that would likewise cause us anxiety and distress, unless we are wise enough to use each problem as an opportunity to build our faith and our ability to feel content even under far less than ideal conditions.