Dear Congregation Kehillah and Friends,
Be'haalotecha literally means: "When you raise up [the lamps of the menorah*]"... Here's how we're instructed to light the menorah: apply the flame to the wick "until the flame rises on its own," in other words, until it shines independently. This idea teaches an important lesson to all of us as educators, mentors, parents and learners: every individual is potentially a menorah, but a menorah needs a flame to help it realize its potential to emit/give out light.
In this week's parasha, we see our greatest leader, Moses, weary of leadership and devoid of emotional strength, unable to continue as the 'flame' of the Jewish people. We read that the elders of the tribes of Israel were present for him, and that their presence helped to lift him out of his depressive state, in a sense, rekindling Moses' wick so it could again shine independently. From this parasha, we can learn that depression is isolating and often leads to even more self-imposed isolation (darkness) when what is needed is the presence of others, bringing light to remind us that we are not alone. And, we can be that flame for others, whether in person or via phone, email and Zoom!
As one emerges, it is possible for real transformation - to understand, as Moses came to see - that his life was so much more than his own feelings and needs, important as they were, but even more so, that life is about purpose and mission and being in service. We are reminded that Moses was known especially for the trait of humility. C.S. Lewis, British scholar and writer from the 1950s, had some good advice: humility is not about thinking less of yourself. It is about thinking of yourself less. Moses' focus returned to leadership of our people, and going forward, we see in Moses an inner calm and resolve that served him well as he faced painful crises in his own life while continuing to help the Jewish people realize our potential on the journey ahead.
These are difficult days for Americans and for Jews. Let's be that light for each other and remember how important you are to our mutual well-being.