and more complaints. This in a nutshell sums up the generation
that left Egypt. Whether it was the fear of the unknown,
the lack of water, the lack of meat, the good old days,
whatever transpired the Jews found something to complain
about. This despite the fact that they bore witness to the
miraculous and benevolent hand of G-d and despite the fact that all of
their prior fears had proven to be unfounded. No wonder
that this generation was not fit to enter the land of Israel
and set up a nation of priests and holy people. Of course when people perceive that they have legitimate gripes they blame others. To look inwards for solutions would require effort and self- criticism and change and we all know how averse people are to that. Blaming others is so much easier and takes so little effort. And who better
to blame than ones leaders. The people cried out to Moses, All the Israelites complained to Moses are common refrains in the Bible. While the masses may complain and thereby do nothing, the job of the leader is to act. G-d said to Moses why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Jewish people and let them start moving (Exodus 14:15).
In parshat Be-haalotkha the complaining reached a feverish pitch. In fact it was so severe that the Torah actually changed the order of the parsha. When the ark went forth, Moses said, Arise, O G-d and scatter your enemies. Let your foes flee before you. When it came to rest he said Return, O G-d to the myriads of Israels thousands (10:35-36). Our sages tell us that these two verses which actually belong in parshat Bamidbar (where the encampment of the Jewish people is described) was placed in our parsha in order to have a pause from the continuing murmuring of the Jews. The Torah wanted to present other images than complaint after complaint. Moses was so exasperated with the pettiness of the Jewish people, all they had to say is we want meat. Why are You treating me so badly said Moses to G-d. Dont you like me anymore? Why do You place such a burden upon me? Was it I who was pregnant with this nation? Did I give birth to them? I can not be responsible for the entire nation! Its too hard for me. If You are going to do this to me just do me a favor and kill me (11:11-15). Harsh words indeed. Yet G-d did not get angry with Moses for his outburst. How could He? The burdens of the people were just too much for any one person no matter how great they may be. Harsh words are at times legitimate. G-d therefore told Moses to gather seventy elders to assist him in his duties. Despite this, Moses plight seemed to get even more difficult.
Immediately after appointing the seventy elders the Torah describes two direct challenges to the leadership of Moshe. In the first instance Eldad and Meidad were prophesizing (read: competing with Moshe) in the camp. Joshua the devoted disciple of Moshe urged Moshe to stop them. Are you jealous for my sake replied Moses? I only wish that all of G-ds people should have the gift of prophecy (11:29). In the second instance Miriam and Aaron began speaking against Moses
they went on to say, Is it to Moses exclusively that G-d speaks? Doesnt He also speak to us (12:1-2). Moshe is silent. No reaction is recorded. The next thing the Torah tells us is G-d heard it. Moses, however, was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth (12:3).
Great leaders, humble leaders dont respond to every criticism. Their silence speaks louder than words; their actions speak louder than words, words that most likely people would just ignore. They are more concerned with building a better tomorrow rather than battling their critics. Moshe Rabbeinu continues to be our teacher to this very day. Yet dor hamidbar the generation who wandered aimlessly in the desert has no share in the world to come (Mishna Sanhedrin). Excessive complaining without constructive suggestions really is a dead end street. Shabbat Shalom!