In this week’s Torah portion we read of the inauguration of the first Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court. It was created after Moshe complained to God that the Jewish people were too numerous and contentious to deal with all by himself (not much has changed here) and that he needed some assistance.
God instructed Moses to gather 70 elders and leaders and to bring them in front of the Ohel Moed – the Tent of Meeting, the place where God would have His regular chats with Moshe. God told him that He “will increase some of the spirit that is upon you (Moshe) and place it upon them so they can share the burden and you won’t have to bear it alone.” To add to the majesty of the moment, all of the appointees received a one-off prophecy at their inauguration.
Two of them, Eldad and Medad, continued prophesying beyond the others. This troubled Joshua, Moshe’s right-hand-man who wanted it stopped; some commentaries suggesting because of the disturbing nature of their visions. Whatever the case, Moshe did not share Joshua’s indignation and responded, “Are you being jealous for my sake? If only everyone could be prophets and that God would place His spirit upon them!” Moshe had absolutely no issue with others sharing his good fortune or status.
Moshe’s reaction illustrates a powerful and fundamental difference between the spiritual things in life versus the material ones. Limitations are inherent to the physical world but this is not the case when it comes to the spiritual.
By definition the material world has boundaries to it – that indeed is one of the things that makes it physical. You can only eat a certain amount of food before you become full. One can work and stay awake only until fatigue sets in and sleep takes over. Even regarding wealth, some people (those coveted few) have more money than they will ever be able to possibly spend in their entire lifetime. When it comes to food, drink, work, spending or any other material need or gratification – they all have a point where they get maxed out. Great sports figures don’t last forever as they get older and slower (unless you are Zdeno Chara or Roger Federer).
But this is not the case when it comes to the spiritual side of life. Here we have no boundaries. One does not become satiated with the amount of good they feel when you do what’s right. Relationships don’t have limits to them and the feelings of love one has for a spouse, child, parent or friend can be endless. Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, the founder of Aish, had 12 children and used to always say “that each one is another lesson in love”. Loving one child in no way diminishes the love a parent has for another child and Love never, ever gets used up.
Similarly, a healthy and growing relationship between a man and woman can have endless degrees and layers of love that increase as time goes on. The love that my grandparents (of blessed memory) had for one another in their final, 73rd year of marriage (yes, 73) was not the same that they had in their 5th, 10th, 25th or 50th.
This is what Moshe was teaching Joshua. He was informing him that there was nothing wrong with others obtaining prophecy. There was no detraction whatsoever to him, even if the entire nation would attain such a lofty state of connection to God. Jealously may exist in the realm of the material world where someone else’s good awakens me to the things that I lack. But this is foreign to the spiritual side of life where my good only motivates me to share it with others.
We see this all the time when someone gets engaged, married or has a child. He or she wants to share that joy with as many people as possible – limitless and without bounds. When it comes to good news we want to scream it from the rooftops and share it with the whole world. Simply put, there is no law of diminishing returns for Godly, spiritual pleasures.
The dynamics of how this works is aptly described in Rashi’s comment on the above cited verse that God “will increase some of the spirit that is upon you (Moshe) and place it on them…” Rashi notes that the Torah doesn’t say take from Moshe but increase and explains: “At that moment, to what was Moshe compared to? To a candle that lights a Menorah – all the other candles are lit from it, yet that original candle’s flame is not diminished.”
The fact that 70 people received a heightened spiritual awareness – the highest in fact namely, prophecy – and that a couple of them continued with it beyond the others in no way detracted from Moshe’s level of spiritual greatness, his prophetic abilities and his connection with God. As Rashi points out, nothing was taken from Moshe and given to others, it was only expanded from him with no loss whatsoever to his spiritual self.
Whenever we share and create good, truth, love and joy or anything that is a true reflection of God, we need to know that since it’s an expression of God’s Infinite Being it is boundless. In the spiritual world there is plenty to go around to satisfy everyone. When we transfer any of our light, warmth and good – we lose nothing; nay, we only gain. And so does the world around us.
Give a little bit
Give a little bit of your love to me
Give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my love to you
There’s so much that we need to share
Send a smile and show you care