Yitro, February 18, 2017 - Shevat 22, 5777
Torah: Exodus 18:1-20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Matthew 8:5-20
The Cure for a Messiah Complex
How do you cure a Messiah complex? In this Torah portion we see how the L-rd helped Moses deal with it. Moses sent his wife to report to his father-in-law how G-d had blessed him since they last saw each other. Jethro decided to come and see for himself. What Jethro saw bothered him—Moses was working non-stop. From sunrise to sunset, Moses had people crowding around him, wanting him to make judgment in their cases. With a nation of two million people, there were a lot of disputes to settle. Jethro gave him simple advice—"You are taking on too much, Moses. Delegate the cases that you can to others and only deal with what you have to."
Taking on too much is a common human disease (not limited to rabbis and pastors). We get caught up with the rush of life and don't notice that we have taken on giant-sized burdens. The result—we get exhausted and burnt out. The L-rd, in His grace, sends to us "Jethro types" who speak G-d's word into our lives, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," (Matthew 11:30). Our challenge is first of all to stop long enough to listen, and then, to release our self-imposed burdens, just as Moses did.
Why are we so prone to taking the world upon our shoulders? Perhaps one major reason is that we temporarily forget who G-d is—the all-powerful Master of the Universe. We get caught up in the treadmill of self-powered activity to such an extent that the L-rd fades from the picture. At times like that, we need to be refreshed with a new glimpse of the L-rd. This is a need that both the Torah and the Haftarah portions address. When the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, it came with powerful manifestations of G-d's great power—thunder, lightning, sound of the trumpet (shofar), smoke, etc. In Isaiah 6 we also see an awesome picture of G-d—seated on a high throne; the train of His robe filling the temple; seraphim (angels) hovering above Him... Isaiah's response? First of all, admitting his sin: "I am a man of unclean lips...," and then, after being cleansed, "L-rd, here I am, [Hineni], send me [to do Your work].”
Are we struggling with a messiah complex—thinking that unless we perform flawlessly, the world would fall apart? If so, isn't it time to get cured of it?