The eighth graders were busy preparing for graduation. They were going to put on a presentation and everyone was assigned a job. Chayah was responsible for the scenery. As she was working one afternoon, her teacher, Mrs. Hirshman called her.
"Chayah, you know Simi's mother had a baby and Simi needs to help at home in the afternoons. Simi's job was to arrange the props, and I would like you to take over for her. You are very talented and I am sure you will set up the props tastefully."
"Thank you for the compliment, Morah," Chayah said. "But scenery is what I do best. Wouldn't it be better if I just concentrate on my job and get it done well?"
"Come, Chayah," Mrs. Hirshman replied. "Let's take a short break from the paintbrush and do a bit of `living with the times.'
"In this week's parshah, we read about the passing away of Miriam and Aharon. The Torah tells us that, in their merit, the Jewish people were accompanied by a well of fresh water and the clouds of glory on their journeys through the desert. When Miriam and Aharon passed away, the well and the clouds also disappeared."
"But Morah," interrupted Chayah. "I remember learning that the well and the clouds accompanied the Jewish people right up to the day they entered Eretz Yisrael."
"That's right, Chayah. They did disappear with Miriam and Aharon's death, but they came back in the merit of Moshe Rabbeinu. And that's just what I wanted to discuss with you. The Torah tells us that the manna the Jewish people ate in the desert came in Moshe's merit. Moshe was a leader, and a leader knows and cares about his people and treats each one according to his needs. This is like manna - food which is given according to the needs of every person."
"That reminds me of the Midrash that describes how Moshe Rabbeinu took the sheep out to pasture," said Chayah. "He let the young ones graze first because they needed the softest grass."
Mrs. Hirshman nodded. "Good, Chayah. Now perhaps you can figure out why the clouds of glory were in the merit of Aharon. I'll give you a hint - the clouds surrounded and protected all of Am Yisrael, no matter who they were."
"Oh, I know," replied Chayah enthusiastically. "Aharon was an ohav sholem, and showed Ahavas Yisrael for everyone, no matter who they were."
"And Miriam," continued Mrs. Hirshman, "devoted herself to caring for the tiny babies in Mitzrayim. Even in the depths of galus, when Am Yisrael was at its lowest levels, Miriam filled the people with life and hope. And in her merit came the water which flows from high places to low.
"Now, do you know why the clouds and the well came back in Moshe's merit? With Miriam and Aharon gone, Moshe took upon himself to care for Am Yisrael and fill in, devoting himself to the tasks that Miriam and Aharon had performed. This is what a Jewish leader is, a person who takes responsibility when the need arises, even if the tasks had originally been performed by others.
"Every Jew must learn from Moshe Rabbeinu. We too must do what has to be done. Even when we are dedicated to our specific job, we must be willing to take on more when the need arises."
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, Parshas Chukas)