Prepared by Rabbi Stephen Texon
This week's Parashat "Chukat" weaves an amazing tapestry of themes that are beautifully interwoven to teach us profound lessons.
The most profound issue which dominates the portion is the episode of the "Waters of "Strife" wherein Moses disobeys G-d's command to SPEAK to the rock to bring forth water but instead SMITES the rock.
Life giving water poured forth regardless, because the people were parched and needed the water to survive. Their immediate need was critical and had to be satisfied, but the consequences for Moses were very severe. The Rabbis and Sages for centuries have tried to explain this "punishment" which seems excessive and actually do so very well, but still it is sad as we understand it and it was obviously even harder for Moses to accept. Add to this two other serious blows to Moses in this Parasha, the deaths of both Aaron and Miriam, his brother and sister. Rather crushing wouldn't you say? but Moses remained strong and steadfast in his faith despite being dealt these multiple blows, further proof of the tremendous leader that he was.
There are a myriad of explanations of why Moses was denied entry into the promised land because of his disobedience in this episode. They begin with Rashi up to the present day. Here are just two that I have chosen:
1. If a rock which neither speaks nor hears nor is in need of sustenance, obeys the word of G-d, how much more should we!!"
2. What was an appropriate method many years prior to accomplish something may not be appropriate today. Nearly 40 years earlier in a similar situation Moses was indeed instructed to SMITE the rock to bring forth water, but in this instance that tactic did not apply and Moses in a fit of understandable anger and frustration resorted to a tactic of the past while disobeying G-d. 40 years earlier Moses dealt with a people with a slave mentality, the discipline of the stick, now he was dealing with a people which is free and liberated. As wrong as the reality is, the slave understands the rod or the whip, but the free man must be spoken to with dignity and respect. What was appropriate action for a leader in one generation is not necessarily appropriate for that same leader in addressing a new generation. Simply put, it was time for Moses to go, and Moses knew it himself having asked G-d prior to this episode to relieve him with a successor which of course was Joshua.
In summary, "leadership is a function of time", something we must bear in mind as we address the pressing and controversial problems of today and their specific circumstances in the most appropriate and effective ways. This is our Nation's greatest challenge in making impactful decisions that will affect our generation and many future generations. May G-d give our leaders at all levels of Government the wisdom and courage to do so!!
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