Updated: Jun 27
This week’s double Torah Portion, Chukat, tells of the Israelites’ journey through the desert. Though they had escaped slavery in Egypt, they were not quite yet in the promised land. In fact, they still endured some pretty significant difficulties.
We learn that there was a challenging lack of water which prompted them to complain to Moses and Aaron. They had already noticed that it was a place devoid of plants, figs, grapes and pomegranates— and now, with no water to drink, they became even more vocal.
When Moses and Aaron were alone, God appeared to them and told them to assemble the people together by the rock and to speak to the rock to produce water.
So, Moses and Aaron did as they were told and assembled the people by the rock.
There, instead of speaking to the rock to produce water, Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod.
It seems that for this, he and Aaron were punished by being banned from entrance to the Promised Land.
Early 15th century Spanish rabbinic philosopher Joseph Albo attributes their deviance to their lack of self-confidence and their lack of faith in God. He argues that Moses and Aaron did not believe in their own ability to fulfill this commandment even though God personally instructed them in this action.
Instead, they reverted to a tried-and-true method proved to Moses during his invocation of the plagues in Egypt: striking with his rod to affect miracles.
It seems they were fearful that if they gathered the entire famished community together, and failed to produce sustenance, the people would threaten their leadership, and perhaps even their lives. Moses and Aaron enjoyed positions of leadership, yet they did not believe in themselves and were even afraid of those they led.
Leadership requires the courage to follow your heart on matters of direction and purpose, and also belief in your own ability to fulfill that calling. Leadership is about trusting your gut and believing in yourself.
The above is a reflection by Rabbi Heather Miller on this week's Torah portion, Parashat Chukat, Numbers 19:1-22:1. Please visit rabbiheathermiller.com to subscribe and follow on social media.