Now this man Moses was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3)
This verse appears in the context one of Moses' most difficult trials, a rebellion of sorts by his brother and sister. From Exodus through Deuteronomy we experience the revelation of Hashem through the story of a humble leader and the Children of Israel. The Torah narrative points out explicitly the trait of humility that Moses possessed. Why is this trait so important for spiritual leadership within communities?
Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah: "Once a child got the better of me."
"I was traveling, and I met with a child at a crossroads. I asked him, 'Which way to the city?' and he answered, 'This way is short and long, and this way is long and short.'
"I took the 'short and long' way. I soon reached the city but found my approach obstructed by gardens and orchards. So I retraced my steps and said to the child: 'My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?' Answered the child: 'Did I not tell you that it is also long?'"
(Talmud, Eruvin 53b)
In our quest for more order, we are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts to get things done or arrive at our destination more quickly. Some things just seem so beyond our grasp or too difficult to attain; and because of this, we attempt to find a shorter, easier path. Occasionally this is possible, but often we discover that this "shorter" path is actually more costly to us, creates greater hassle, and does not teach us the lessons we are meant to learn along the journey.
We are taught instead that the "long but short way" is steep, winding, tedious, and can take a lifetime. It's full of frustration and setbacks. However, it is the road that leads us through to our aspired destination. Sometimes it is the journey that is the destination, rather than the end point.
The Israelites journeyed in the desert for 40 years so that the children of a generation of slaves could learn to cleave to God and rely on Him during life's journeys. May we learn to appreciate our long but short way, the way of Yeshua, who calls us to a life of holiness and sacrifice.
God's final test for Avraham was the most unsettling of all the 10 tests. God's request that Avraham sacrifice his son and give up his future went against the most fundamental traits in his personality. What was Avraham known for? Radical hospitality. Our tradition teaches us that he and Sarah were the embassadors of kindness among all the people they sojourned with. Of our ancestors, he and Sarah were the embodiment of chesed (kindness). The tragedy of Avraham and Sarah's life was that until an old age, they had no children through which they could plant seeds of kindness into the world. When God opened Sarah's womb and brought the miraculous birth of Isaac, Avraham's lifetime of service and faithfullness to the one true God met its reward.