“The community was without water, and they joined against Moses and Aaron. . .The Presence of the Lord appeared to [Moses and Aaron], and the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. . . “
We know what happened next. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses hit the rock. As punishment, neither Moses nor Aaron was permitted to enter into the Land of Israel.
This isn’t the first time the Israelites complained about their lack of food and water; it happened 40 years before this episode. And what did God tell Moses to do then? God told him to “smite the rock and draw forth water.” And Moses did as he was told.
In this chapter, the instructions changed. Moses was told to speak to the rock. But didn’t Moses listen and instead hit the rock, as he had done 40 years before. The first time, no water came out. It was God’s message to him that hitting won’t work this time. At that moment Moses had the chance to reconsider and to perhaps think about what God had actually told him. But Moses didn’t. He hit the rock again. Moses, like so many of us, was set in his ways. He had hit the rock 40 years earlier. Why change? It worked this way before. It will work this way again.
But maybe God’s message is that it doesn’t always work the same way. “Listen, Moses, there might be a different way of doing things. Try something new.” As a leader, Moses failed to realize that the current generation needed something different than the previous one. From this God understood that Moses was not the person to lead the Israelites, this 2nd or 3rdgeneration of free Israelites, as they settled in the Promised Land. They needed a new leader, someone who understood this generation.
Many of us find ourselves stuck in old ways of doing things. There’s a positive way to use our past experiences, to help us grow. But when we find ourselves trapped in the past, we stymie our potential and hold ourselves back. The ability to change with the times is an important gift we give ourselves – the ability to learn from our past and grow toward our future – that’s the lesson from this parasha. Respond to the yearning within us to grow and expand our insights, our interests, our goals.
May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel