These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Take a load off, Moshe!

Posted on February 11, 2012 by Andrea Wiese

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I can only imagine how excited Moshe would have been this week to be reunited with his wife and two sons! Yitro, who brought Moshe’s family to him, also, like any good in-law brought advise. On the second day of Yitro’s visit, (the first day he burnt an offering to G-d) he told Moshe that he was working too hard and had to delegate his responsibilities. Everyday people had been coming to Moshe with their problems and Moshe would tell them what they should do. This sounds like a very important role, and it is. But the people had so many problems, Moshe was busy with this all day!

If we were talking about modern times, we could say that Moshe was clearly overbooked. No time for the gym, no time to go catch a game and have a beer with Aaron, not so much time to have a romantic reunion with his wife…you get the idea. Yitro and Rav Kook both agree, that this is not an appropriate way of life, even if you are serving G-d and your community in every capacity, you still have to take care of yourself.  Personal well-being is just as important as public service, Rav Kook sites a story in the Talmud when two judges are working too hard and their teacher, Rabbi Chiyya, tells them they need to take it easy. Rav Kook summarizes, “That while their public service was truly a wonderful thing, it is not necessary to neglect all other aspects of life…it is clear that personal growth will enhance one’s community. Better an hour of productive activity in a fresh, relaxed state of mind and body, than many hours of constant toil in a tired and frenzied state.”

This is still a hard lesson for me.  After many counseling sessions in college for anxiety for taking on two many responsibilities, for trying to help too many people and too many organizations, and being nearly worthless because I couldn’t take care of the world if I wasn’t taking care of myself, I finally started to realize that I couldn’t live myself this way.  And this is exactly what Yitro is trying to tell Moshe.  Eventually Moshe is going to be run too thin and he will no longer be a good leader for his people if he tries to keep up this schedule.

So I hope for all you over achievers out there. Take a break, have a glass of wine, go get a pedicure, go for a walk, put yourself first…and most importantly, don’t feel guilty about it! Even Moshe had to delegate!!