Parshot Festivals

The leader within

  • ilan hermann
Moses, G-d’s trusted servant whose devotion and obedience is supreme, has a single career moment of insanity. An infraction which would be negligible for the average man is defining for Moses. In one instant, his fate is altered and sealed.
by Rav Ilan Herrmann | Jun 21, 2018

The people complained that they were thirsty. G-d commanded Moses to “speak to the rock” to produce water. Instead of speaking to the rock, he hit it, violating the commandment, the consequence of which would have an impact on all of Jewish history.

The result is that Moses is decreed not to enter the promised land. Significantly, with the absence of Moses in the forage into Israel, the unique phenomenon that his reign wrought is lacking.

To explain. Throughout Moses’ leadership, the children of Israel were accompanied by a supernatural form of existence. The exodus; splitting of the sea; Sinai revelation; the manna sustenance; and so on, all confounded the laws of nature. Miracles abounded. Moses inspired divine transcendence in a revealed, open manner. Had Moses entered Israel, the process of sweeping all before them would have continued through to its conclusion, including our sages say, the ushering in of the Messianic era.

But with Moses being prevented from entering the land, and Joshua taking the helm, the miraculous accompaniment diminishes. From then and throughout all subsequent generations, the process becomes one defined by natural law, and man must confront challenges on his terms. In a sense, we are the product of the fatal choice Moses made that day to hit the rock.

The obvious question is: Why did Moses do it? The possibility of an unwitting error, or loss of control, is hardly an option for an individual described as “a man of G-d”, a tzaddik regarded as having mastered his human temperament. The question is intensified.

Our sages offer a fascinating answer.

If Moses was to be the catalyst for the achievement and success of the Jewish people, had he led their march with an illuminated skyline of miracles, an essential and necessary ingredient in the Jewish psyche would be missing.

Three and half thousand years on, we are able to look back and see a pattern of a people challenged, tried and tested and yet, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, repeatedly displaying the ability to rise and succeed in a way that’s unparalleled in the annuls of the history of nations.

In Moses’ seeming error, a new chapter began. That of the realisation that, rooted in the Jewish spirit lies the ability to achieve the miraculous. By forging a bond with G-d; embracing the divine strength in our soul; and being fuelled by Torah, the limitations and barriers that threaten are rendered impotent.

The implication is startling. Moses hits the rock with full volition, knowing that he is signing his own fate. His motivation is that of every true leader – the ultimate good of his people – for them to realise that the miracle is not outside, but in them. As they are challenged, their greatness will shine, and they will find the leader within.


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