This past Wednesday I was having coffee with a friend and colleague, and we were talking about how insanely busy we are, especially right now with all that is going on in the world. And he said to me something that resonated; he said that he felt that what he was doing wasn’t enough. No matter how many calls he made or marches he went to or anything else he did, it didn’t feel like it was enough.
Well, “It me” as the kids say.
And it all of us too. Because I think one of the hallmarks of this moment in history is that it doesn’t matter what we do, it doesn’t quite feel like enough. That our individual efforts are too small. That no matter how much we may put our shoulder into whatever we’re doing, it isn’t making a difference.
And that’s as true in our personal lives as in our tzedakah lives. Perhaps it’s even more true there. Did I spend enough time with my family? Did I make a difference to the people around me? Am I making a difference in my life? I think many of us wrestle with these questions even as we find ourselves busier and busier with our obligations.
In Exodus 18, Jethro watches his son-in-law Moses adjudicating before Israel all day long.
One man fixing the world's problems. All day long.
Baffled, he asks Moses what he's doing and he gets a bunch of superhero talk: only I can do it. They people need me. You know the drill.
And what does Jethro say?
ויאמר חתן משה אליו לא־טוב הדבר אשר אתה עשה׃"And Moses’ father-in-law said to him, The thing that you do is not good.
נבל תבל גם־אתה גם־העם הזה אשר עמך כי־כבד ממך הדבר לא־תוכל עשהו לבדך׃"You will certainly wear away, both you, and this people who are with you; for this thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it yourself alone."
That’s us. We’re Moses. We’re taking the world on our shoulders, feeling like no one else can do it, feeling like we alone are responsible, feeling like we have to keep ourselves going all day long.
And you know what? It's not good.
It's exhausting. For all of us.
And the Torah knew there would be moments like this, moments when we feel like Moses. So the text sends us Jethro to say:
You’re doing enough. And you don’t have to do it alone.
To say: remember your family, your friends, and your community.
To say: remember to pray, to sing, to breathe. To let others share the load; to trust others.
To say: go to shul. Call a friend you haven't talked to in a while. Break bread with some folks you like.
Jethro reminds us that Torah is not lived or fulfilled by one person, but by all of us.
All of us. Together. And that is good. May it be so for all of us. Amen.