Sharing in their Distress

They took a stone, and put it under him (Exodus 17:12)

ויקחו אבן וישמו תחתיו (שמות יז:יב)

During the prolonged battle between the Israelites and Amalek, Moses realized that when he “held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.” (17:11) This realization required Moses to keep his arms aloft during the entire prolonged battle. We read that when he grew tired, “[Aaron and Hur] took a stone, and put it under him which he sat on; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.” (verse 12) Rashi (on verse 12) wonders: Why did they bring him a stone? Couldn’t they find a more comfortable seat like a chair or a cushion? According to Rashi, Moses asked specifically to sit on an uncomfortable stone. “[Moses] said, Israel is in a state of distress, so I too will be with them in distress.” The Sages in the Talmud viewed Moses’ actions as an example we must try to emulate. They taught that, “When the community is in trouble let not a man say, ‘I will go to my house and I will eat and drink and all will be well with me’…rather a man should share in the distress of the community, for so we find that Moses, our teacher, shared in the distress of the community… [From this we learn that] he who shares in the distress of the community will merit to behold its consolation.” (Taanit 11a) Moses would most certainly have agreed.