The relationship between and God and the people of Israel often reflects the relationship between parent and child. In this week’s parasha, Be’Ha’alotekha, we see different glimpses of God’s parenting moments.
After some time wandering, the Israelite complain that they have no meat to eat. They remember – with assumedly false nostalgia – the plethora of fish and select fruits and vegetables they had in abundance in Egypt and they lament:
But now, our life is parched, there is nothing; we have nothing before our eyes but the manna.
“Why do we have to have this for dinner again? Is this all there is to eat? I never have good snacks in my lunch. You used to make my favourite meal every day. There’s nothing to eat.”
Moses, understandably, loses his cool and rants to God:
Why have You done evil to Your servant; why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that You place the burden of this entire people upon me? Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to it, that You say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling, to the Land that You swore to its forefathers?’ Where shall I get meat to give to this entire people when they weep to me saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat?’ I alone cannot carry this entire nation, for it is too heavy for me! And if this is how you deal with me, then kill me now, if I have found favor in Your eyes, and let me not see my evil!
What have I done to deserve this? How can I do this on my own? I can’t possibly meet their every need. I give up.
God has two responses. First, He instructs Moses to get help and support – to appoint 70 elders who will bear some of the burden of taking care of the people. Then, He lashes out at the people and tells them – you want meat? I’ll give you meat.
Not for one day shall you eat, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days nor twenty days. Until a month of days, until it will come out of your nose, and will become nauseating to you, because you have rejected the Lord Who is in your midst, and you have wept before Him saying: ‘Why did we leave Egypt?’
Okay, so in parenting this would not be one of our finer moments. Interestingly, the narrative does not relay the follow-through to this threat. Instead, the narrative moves forward with a new situation. Did God really send meat for a month so that the Israelites couldn’t look at it anymore?
If you’re going to complain about dinner and snacks, I will stop shopping and cooking and you can do it all yourselves.
Which of course is unlikely to ever happen.
If it did – someone would write about it.
Sometimes we can have the patience and wisdom to see beyond the words that come out of our children’s mouths and to offer the assistance they are really seeking, even if they themselves do not know what that looks like.
But sometimes, we too are simply overwhelmed and underappreciated and just trying to stay afloat, and we respond to the literal words directed at us, with absurd, over-the-top reactions.
And then the moment passes and we move on and try to do better next time.
As we move into the last two weeks of school and get organized for the summer, this period of transition from one routine to another puts both children and adults on edge. I wish for everyone patience, calm, the ability to keep the many annoyances in perspective, and frequent deep breaths.
Summer is so close.