This week a memory came up on my Facebook news-feed from the time I presented some findings from my Masters thesis research to colleagues at a training session hosted by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria. My thesis was entitled “The Never Ending Session” and it explored the potential risks that people in a care giving role might encounter. I specifically examined the role of the Rabbi and looked at risks such as vicarious trauma, burnout, secondary stress or compassion fatigue, all empirically evidenced risks in care giving roles. I also offered some useful strategies and tips to help deal with any of these risks and to be proactive in mitigating their influence on the Rabbi. I felt it was well received at the time by my colleagues and it is wonderful to see that since then this concept has become very important and training sessions and other useful advice has followed over the years.
The interesting thing is, as usual, the Torah already contains all the wisdom in its teachings. In fact, there is conclusive evidence to my thesis from our Torah portion last week!
Last week Moses has a very difficult time with the Jewish people. Moses was the “faithful shepherd” of the Jewish nation and he was at their beckon call almost 24 hours a day. He had been handling all their burdens, complaints , trials and tribulations for many years. In our portion last week, this seems to finally take a massive toll on Moses as they come and complain that they want meat. They were not satisfied with the Manna bread from Heaven.. He turns to Hashem and says I cannot deal with them anymore, it has just become too much for me to handle. Hashem recognises Moses’ difficulty and frustration and suggests he appoint other leaders to assist him in leading the Jewish people. Moses listens to Hashem’s advice and appoints 70 elders to assist him in the leadership role.
What I find incredibly insightful from this episode is that even the greatest leaders need to ensure they do not try and do everything on their own. Even the greatest leaders need to look after their own mental health and well-being and be prepared to go for help when necessary. Bottling everything inside and believing that you are capable of carrying everyone else’s burden single-handed, will ultimately lead to your own demise.
Perhaps this could be one of the reasons that 10 of the 12 spies from our Parsha this week had a negative outlook. They possibly might have been struggling with their own personal issues and this played out in the way in which they viewed Israel. If they had resolved their own internal struggles it may have allowed them to see the world in a more positive light.
If this is true of our leader Moses, how much more so with each of us. If any of us are experiencing hardship, challenges, depression, or any other difficulty, we should not be afraid to ask for help. In fact it is a Mitzvah to ask for assistance. It is also our role and, equally, if not more crucial, to be supportive of anyone who calls out for help. We have to make sure to never allow anyone to feel ashamed or embarrassed for reaching out. If you need help – let your voice be heard. If you hear someone calling for help – make sure you open your heart to them!