Maternal Instincts: B’ha’alotkha 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are Mother’s Day and Father’s Day important days in your home? Do you try to observe it in some way even if it isn’t that important to you? Does our culture emphasize these days too much, or not enough?

As Moses vents his frustration about the Israelites’ stubbornness, he references the power of parenthood — and the limitations of his own power:

The Pitch: “And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have You dealt ill with Your servant, and why have I not enjoyed Your favor, that You have laid the burden of all this people upon me? Did I conceive all this people, did I bear them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant,’ to the land that You have promised on oath to their fathers?” – Numbers 11:11-12

Swing #1: “Turning to God in bitter complaint, imagining himself as a woman straining under the burdens of her biological role, Moses conveys the experience of the female body given over to the lives of others. He imagines his body changed to accommodate a relationship that is not only unbearable but also unthinkable.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, Moses: A Human Life

Swing #2: “Nowhere more powerfully do we witness Moses’ emotions on full display. His loneliness as a leader, his pain at his people’s stubbornness, his deep reluctance to carry out his assigned role, and his resentment against God for the casting decision — all these explode with the force of pent-up fury toward the only being Moses can turn to. … Unable to exert his authority and restore calm, he faults God for his struggles and asks God to take charge.” – Elliott Rabin, The Biblical Hero: Portraits in Nobility and Fallibility

Swing #3: “Moses compares his own role to that of a mother — a person who gives of her body and soul consistently, constantly, and entirely, always attentive to the needs of an infant child. And Moses says, ‘That’s not me!’ … He simply tries to do what needs to be done for the sake of the people, but he knows who he is and what he is both capable and incapable of doing.” – Rabbi Max Weiss in The Mussar Torah Commentary: A Spiritual Path to Living an Ethical and Meaningful Life, Rabbi Barry H. Block, ed.

Late-Inning Questions: Do you feel that Moses is complimentary or condescending toward mothers in these verses? Might his feelings be influenced by his unconventional upbringing? Do we need an excuse to show our parents that we appreciate them?

On-Deck at TBT: Join us for a Healing Service in conjunction with our Kaballat Shabbat service, Friday, June 17th, commemorating the shloshim (thirty-day anniversary) of the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson St. Services begin at 6:00 pm.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of Father’s Day, one person threw a perfect game on that very occasion — the Phillies’ Jim Bunning against the Mets on June 21, 1964. Plenty of people know Bunning from outside of baseball; he later became a U.S. Senator from Kentucky.

Shabbat Shalom!