I first wrote this one 16 years ago. I thought it was time to revisit it.
Chukat 5775 (Redux and Revised 5759)
Wanting To See More Than The View From the Mountaintop
Perfect faith is a difficult thing. Perfect trust even more so. So it is only natural for human beings to slip up in this area. Moshe Rabbeinu was no exception. Whether from anger, lack or trust, impatience, lack of faith, or a well-intentioned but misplaced desire to help things alone, Moshe struck the rock.
What a powerful metaphor! How often have we become so frustrated with people, even our own children, that the urge to use force rather than verbal persuasion overcomes us. While this is not the time to debate the merits of child-rearing and forms of punishment, the tale of the waters at Meribah is a cautionary one, and should not be ignored as we seek to live our lives in accord with the ways of our G”d.
Perhaps Moshe was acting out of experience. Like him, we too have all learned that sometimes trying to just coax or verbally persuade someone (for example, a determined terrorist) won’t always work. And so we resort to force. Even G”d recognizes this-after all, we weren’t told to try and talk the native Canaanites into moving out of the way and letting Israel settle in the promised land.
But we are reaching conclusions before studying the problem. The issue is not whether force is sometimes necessary, but rather that we be sure to first try having faith and seeing if the matter can be resolved without resorting to more than verbal persuasion. This is where Moshe failed, and often where we fail too. (I might humbly suggest that modern-day medinat Israel has this problem as well. I don’t want to unfairly characterize Israel. They have done plenty of talking. They have made peaceful overtures. Yes, they have had times when they tried talking and that failed, so it might be understandable that, like Moses, they start assuming the worst and act in accordance with those assumptions.) We assume talk won’t work and we move right on to force. And Moshe had less of an excuse-for Moshe had been told by G”d to just speak to the rock. We’re not getting any direct messages from G”d lately.
Or are we? Is that not the whole point? Torah is that continuous message from G”d. Is that not why we read Torah and study it? Why people like me comment on it, seeking to delve into its meanings and mysteries? The lesson is there. The instruction, the teaching, is there. Have faith. Try talking first. That is, if you want to do more than just see your promised land from the top of a hill on the other side.
Have faith. Try talking first. Maybe you’ll cross your Jordan. Otherwise, get yourself a good pair of binoculars. And keep yourself in good shape…it’s a long walk up that mountain – just to see a vista you’ll never see up close.
Herzl said it. If you will it, it is no dream.
This Shabbat think about what it is in your life that you need or want as much as Israel wanted water and Moshe wanted to give it to them. Then have faith, and try persuading your vision into reality with words-perhaps prayer, perhaps song. And if you’re not so perfect at it…well, remember-Moshe screwed up and G”d still made water flow from the rock….
©2015 (portions ©1999 and 2001) by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings on this parasha:
Chukat5774 – What a Difference a Vowel Makes (Revised from 5767)
Chukat 5773 – Biblical “Jodies”
Chukat 5772 – Your G”d, Our G”d, and the Son of a Whore
Chukat 5767-What A Difference A Vowel Makes
Chukkat 5765-Not Seeing What’s Inside
Chukat 5764 – Man of Great Character
Chukat 5762-The Spirit of Miriam
Chukat-Balak 5766 – Community Sing
Chukat Balak 5763-Mi ChaMicah
Chukat-Balak 5760-Holy Cow!