This sidra which brings us to the end of B’midbar sees Moses contemplating the difficulties of leading the people through the wilderness. Despite their moments of tension, both realised that they were bound up with each other.
Their link is suggested by an analogy used by the Baal Shem Tov many centuries later.
The Baal Shem took an inordinate time over his Musaf Amidah on Shabbat – three quarters of an hour as a general rule. It was a trial for his followers who were all finished with their prayer long before and were now itching to get home and eat.
Someone had the bright idea that they could all creep out while the Baal Shem was still davening, go home for a meal, be back in the synagogue by the time the Baal Shem concluded, and he would never know a thing.
They tried it one week and lo and behold, the Baal Shem only took three minutes to pray, and when he looked around, his followers were nowhere to be seen. Eventually they came back and asked him what had happened. His answer was this: “When I pray, my thoughts and feelings slowly ascend the rungs of the heavenly ladder – but today after a few minutes the whole ladder came crashing down and my reverie came to a sudden stop.
“You know, you, my community, are my ladder. Without you I cannot get anywhere!”
So it was with Moses and Israel – without the other, neither could achieve anything. Moses was Moses because of Israel: Israel was Israel because of Moses.