A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
I think all mothers should read the story of Korach’s rebellion (Number 16). Can anyone at all relate on some small level to Moses? Moses, who never even used a donkey that belonged to anyone else (verse 15) but, on the contrary, devoted his life to doing for the Jewish people, teaching them , praying for them, and leading them as they developed from slaves into a free and spiritual nation is attacked. Korach, his group and 250 others rebelled against Moses’s leadership.
Nachmanides, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, explains why Korach picked this particular time to rebel. The issue he was upset about, the appointment of Elitzafan, happened much earlier. Nachmanides’ words are poignant to me; he says Korach didn’t rebel when Eltizafan’s appointment was made because life was good for the Jewish people then. After the terrible sin of the Golden Calf, Moses saved the nation with his 40 days and nights of prayer, and, “They loved Moses like themselves and listened to him.” If any man had rebelled against Moses at that time the nation would have stoned him. So Korach bided his time and waited until things weren’t going as well and the nation just heard the decree that they wouldn’t enter Israel but would finish their lives in the desert.
Now Korach knew the time was ripe to rebel as the people’s mood was beginning to turn against Moses’ leadership. Nothing had changed in Moses’ attitude or behavior to the Jewish people but when they began to feel disgruntled, upset, and disillusioned, who are they ready to turn against? Their leader, Moses.
I’m not sure why I find this particular Nachmanides so moving. Maybe it’s because on some small level I can relate. Within a family, there are times that everything is going well and smoothly, and everyone is happy. And at those times, just like Nachmanides says, the children love their parents as themselves and listen to them. Lovely! But when troubles arise, even difficulties that children bring upon themselves, do you know who they take it out on? Isn’t it often Mommy? The truth is that when a child is distressed, the safest person to attack is the person he or she know loves them despite all. So they snap out at you and me. And it doesn’t feel good. No one likes to feel like the bad guy, especially when we’re exhausted from caring so much, loving so much, and doing so much good for the very people who are striking at us. But this is the way the world works. It happened to Moses and it happens to you and me.
What can we do in times like this? I’d like to make two suggestions. The first sounds simple but takes a lot of work.
Don’t take it personally.
I know it feels very personal when your child makes a snide comment, rolls his eyes, or rebels in any which way, but we have to work on ourselves not to take it personally. This is something I’ve worked on for a very long time and still have to work on again and again. I can’t say it enough: sometimes our children hurt and they lash out against the person who loves them the most, similar to the children of Israel and Moses. We can’t let it be about us.
The second suggestion I am taking is from Moses’ reaction to Korach’s initial complaint. The verse says, “and Moses heard and he fell on his face.” One transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom adds this word, l’tfilah—for prayer. At those times of attack and complaints, let’s try to take a moment to whisper a small prayer, maybe one asking for help remaining calm, maybe a prayer to help us not take it personally, maybe a prayer for God to help this child who is in so much pain and doesn’t want our help right at this moment. We can take a parenting challenge and turn it over to God who has the ultimate power and ultimate love to help both us and our children grow through the hard times together.