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[Dvar Torah] Behaalotecha

The name of the Parshah, "Behaalotecha," means "When you raise". Aaron is commanded to raise light in the lamps of the menorah. More Mitzvot are given in this parasha but I want to focus on the story towards the end: The people of Israel are dissatisfied with their food and expressed how they miss the food in Egypt. They are then provided with the heavenly manna. They are still dissatisfied and demand that Moshe supply them with meat.

Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of this entire people upon me? Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are crying on me, saying, 'Give us meat to eat.' Alone I cannot carry this entire people for it is too hard for me. If this is the way You treat me, please kill me if I have found favor in Your eyes, so that I not see my misfortune. (Parashat Behaalotecha)

Moshe seems to give up as Rabbi Sacks describes: Moshe’s mission was to help the Israelites create a society that would be the opposite of Egypt, that would liberate instead of oppress; dignify, not enslave. But the people had not changed. Worse, they had taken refuge in this strange nostalgia for the Egypt they had left: memories of fish, cucumbers, garlic, and the rest. Moshe had discovered it was easier to take the Israelites out of Egypt than to take Egypt out of the Israelites. And if the people had not changed by now, it was a reasonable assumption that they never would. Moshe was staring at his own defeat. He felt there was no point in carrying on. Fast forward - G-d eventually encourages Moshe and gives him a solution.

A question arises - why does the Torah elaborate on Moshe’s emotional breakdown and feelings of  failure and despair?

This teaches us that even great people are not perfect and can sometimes feel like  failures, even  including the greatest leader of all times - Moshe. We might not have Moshe’s potential but we can be like him by striving for greatness and not letting failure stop us. Many times we compare ourselves  to others: ‘All my friends seem to be talented and smart. I'm just kind of average. I try really hard, but can't seem to ever reach a level of excellence. It's getting me worried about my future’
The story is told of Zusha, the great Chassidic master, who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, "Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the mitzvot -  good deeds you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!"

"I'm afraid!" said Zusha. "Because when I get to heaven, I know G-d is not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that G-d will ask 'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!"

The Talmudic statement that "Nobody will ever be as great as Moses" means that nobody again will have that same potential. But we can maximize that which we do have. Life is not a competition against anyone but ourselves. May the Almighty grant us the strength and clarity to be... ourselves.

Shabbat shalom

Ido, Grade 9