Everyone needs a support network. Even in the face of miracles, life is hard, and G-d alone cannot provide the support and comfort we each need to make it through the hard days. No one person has ever had the relationship with G-d that Moses had, and many people do not feel G-d’s presence at all, at least not on a day to day basis. That doesn’t mean that G-d isn’t still present, but that sometimes, for some people, it’s hard to feel that presence. Moses talked to G-d directly, heard all that G-d had to say, knew exactly what his purpose in life was, and had ample opportunity to pour his heart out and confide all his anxieties in a Divine Confidante. But he still needed Jethro, his father-in-law and friend, to give him advice. In this week’s parasha, our title character, Jethro, expresses concern that Moses is overwhelming himself, and makes suggestions on how Moses can reduce his stress level. Jethro has Moses’s and his people’s best interest in mind. He’s got Moses’s back.
Jethro suggests that Moses cultivate an even wider support network than himself and G-d. Jethro knows that as much as Moses alone cannot care for the entire people of Israel and bring their words to G-d, and G-d’s word back to them, Jethro himself cannot alone be Moses’s aid in life. So Moses selects leaders of the people to help him with his task. He builds himself a posse, and only in this way is he “able to survive, and also, all this people will come to their place in peace” (Ex 18:23).
Even with freedom, enough food to eat, security, and family, life isn’t perfect. No matter how good you have it, there will always be stress factors and sadness. It’s important to be sure to have a support network in place when that happens. Everyone should have a confidante and a crew, as Moses did, besides G-d and immediate family. Someone to tell our troubles to, someone who listens and can offer advice, someone who will remind us of our own limits and be honest with us. We can’t all just select our posse as Moses did, because none of us are national leaders with direct face-to-face contact with G-d, and most of us don’t have people lining up waiting to talk to us and be graced with our presence. But, we can be mindful of how we present ourselves, remember to be friendly, to treat others with respect and kindness, and to be honest with others, as we would want them to be with us. We can let people know when we care about them, tell them how much we value their input and companionship, but also be mindful of when they might need their own space. If we do these things, we may find that we’ve built ourselves a pretty good support network of our own.
So, this Shabbat, consider me your Jethro. You are all Moses. You all have your own tasks and burdens in this life, assigned by G-d or your math teachers, and you can’t do everything alone. May you all find friendship, support, and peace. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.