I told a friend of mine the other day that I was traveling to the wedding of a mutual friend of ours. I asked him if he was going, too. “Nah, it’s not my thing. It’s too far away, and I can’t kill a whole day. I’m just not the wedding-hopper type. You go and send my regards.”

I was a bit taken aback, but hey, it’s his prerogative.

The conversation got me thinking.

Is “It’s not my thing” a good line of reasoning?

If something is way out of your comfort zone, must you feel guilty for not doing it?

Of course, it stands to reason that if someone is getting beaten to death and you abstain from intervening because fighting just isn’t your thing, you’re probably losing the moral game that day. But what about less dramatic scenarios? Must you always beat yourself up to accommodate others?

Two Resources Are Lost

Parshat Chukat records the loss of two invaluable resources: Miriam’s Well which provided water throughout their desert sojourn, and the Clouds of Glory that protected them while they traveled and when they camped.

The loss of the Well occurred just after Miriam’s passing, prompting the people to clamor against Moses with bitter complaints:

The entire congregation of the Children of Israel arrived at the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there. The congregation had no water.1

The ending of this story was, unfortunately, pretty ugly: G‑d instructed Moses to speak to the rock, but when that didn’t work the people got worked up and Moses responded by hitting the rock instead. This act invoked G‑d’s wrath, and Moses was punished with the worst thing imaginable—he was denied entry into the Land of Israel.

The Clouds of Glory vanished next. The background of this tragic loss is rooted in another tragedy, the death of Aaron the High Priest, which happened shortly after the saga with the Well.

Why No Complaints About the Clouds?

One would imagine that when two critical resources are cut off, the people would respond with an outcry. Indeed, when the well dried up, they were quite vocal about it. So why don’t we see any such outcry when the Clouds of Glory disappeared? The protection they afforded was just as critical as the water.

The simple answer is that the Clouds of Glory immediately returned. Though Aaron had passed, the Talmud tells us that they returned in Moses’s merit instead.2

Manna Is for Moses, Clouds Are for Aaron

And herein lies a powerful lesson. To get there, we will need to unpack the association between the character and the benefit. Why were the Clouds of Glory attributed to Aaron?

If you think about it, the Clouds of Glory were a great equalizer, enveloping the entire nation as one. As such, it only makes sense that these Clouds of Glory, which highlighted unity and peace, would come in Aaron’s merit. After all, Aaron was famous for being the great peace-maker, always seeking to reunite quarreling parties.

Moses, by contrast, was decidedly not a “Clouds of Glory” type of person. As the leader, his role was that of a shepherd, one who specializes in individualized care, not equality for all. Moses knew this from his early days as a literal shepherd, when he was concerned with offering younger sheep more attention and softer grass, while giving older sheep more sustainable food and freer range.

As the nation’s faithful shepherd, Moses needed to be attentive to the individual needs of every person. That is why the same Talmud tells us that yet a third resource—the manna—came to the people in his merit. Though the manna did fall every morning and was accessible to all, the Talmud tells us that G‑d distributed it to different people in different ways, based on their level of righteousness (or lack thereof). The individuality of the manna was uniquely suited to Moses’s role.

All of this talk of neat compatibility brings us to the following question: If the Clouds of Glory were so closely associated with Aaron, how did they all of a sudden return in Moses’s merit after Aaron died? What changed? Did Moses go through some sort of makeover and transform into his brother to bring back the Clouds?

Moses’s Pivot

Surprisingly, the answer is, yes!

To be more precise, Moses didn’t transform per se, rather he pivoted and changed things up when he saw that his brother had passed and taken the Clouds with him.

Internally, in Moses’s soul, you could say it went something like this: Really, I'm a manna person; the clouds have nothing to do with me. But now my brother is gone, and the people need clouds. Something must be done. So I must summon up something inside of me that is “cloud-related” to be there for the people.

And this is the lesson for you and me: We all have our “thing,” and then there’s a whole bunch of stuff that really isn’t our thing: “That’s not for me.” “I’m not that type.” Moses’s remarkable transformation teaches us that when someone else needs it, you do what it takes to make it your thing.

When it comes to someone else, there are no excuses. If G‑d plants someone in your circle of influence who needs you, be there for them—even if it’s not your thing.

Your friend’s loved one passed away? Be there for her. Even if being around death is uncomfortable and associating with the grieving family is awkward for you, it doesn’t matter. She’s your friend, she needs you, and so you must be there for her. Go over to her house, give her a hug, listen to her talk about her mother, and just “be.” Even if you’re squirming inside.

Does the beggar on the corner make you queasy? Okay, but he needs your help. Give him a sleeping bag, buy him lunch, and say something nice.

Do you know a bit of Torah that your neighbor does not? Can you read the weekly Torah portion? If yes, then go ahead and share it with them. Offer to study together. Oh, it’s not your thing? Well, they need you, and there’s no Aaron or Miriam to take care of them.

Be like Moses and be their Moses.3