Sometimes, I wonder if we’re burdened with too many responsibilities. We’re parents, we’re spouses, we’re professionals. We’re trying to stay both physically and mentally healthy, but still, we burn the candle at both ends.
We try to be communally minded and give our time to the broader society, and at the same time we try to nurture our own spiritual development through reading, learning, and listening to books, shiurim, and podcasts.
As we juggle these multiple balls of responsibility, doing our best to keep them all in the air, dare we drop one?
In this week’s portion, the Torah tells of the tragic tale of Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who were cut off in the prime of their lives. The text is ambiguous as to the source of their crime, but our Rabbis suggest something subtle, rather than profound.
Nadav and Avihu looked to their father, Aharon, and uncle, Moshe, as flawed leaders. Moshe had dedicated his life wholeheartedly to the Jewish people, and as a result he failed as a father. His children grew up as orphans, desperately vying for their father’s approval that they never received. He was a father to everyone, his children received no unique attention.
Aharon, on the other hand, was a dedicated father figure; committed first and foremost to his family. But he never commanded the respect or attained the heights of leadership of his brother, Moshe.
Nadav and Avihu looked at these models of leadership and surmised; “If we don’t have a family, we won’t be guilty of neglecting it. Then we can dedicate our lives completely to the nation.”
Hashem disagreed; to be human is to accept our imperfection.
We are primarily obligated to raise a family, even though it means compromising our ability to lead.
We cannot have it all; every hour we spend at the office is one we don’t spend with our family. Every hour we care for others is an hour we neglect to care for ourselves.
Balance is the acceptance that you can’t do everything. It isn’t a static status, but rather one of constant re-adjustment; knowing that, at times, your parenting will be sub-par because you are caring for yourself and at other times your work will suffer, because the community needs you.
The great juggling act of parenting demands that you don’t even aim to be a perfect parent, because to do so would necessitate forfeiting all other goals and ambitions.
We can only do our best, with the knowledge that we will learn to adjust as we go.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rabbi Gad Krebs is the College Rabbi at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.