In this week’s Parsha, we encounter the story of Moshe hitting the rock instead of speaking to it, resulting in consequences. One explanation for the consequences Moshe would end up enduring, is that Moshe did not follow the exact instructions given to him by God. By striking the rock instead of speaking to it, Moshe displayed impatience and anger. We see this possible impatience from Moshe when he states, “now listen, you rebels” a seemingly uncharacteristically impatient side of Moshe. We also may see anger when Moshe hits the rock instead of talking to it, and not once, but twice, a seemingly unnecessary use of force.
As we see in the following psukim, Moshe is called out for his actions and is told by God that he will be denied entry into Eretz Yisrael. Now I could go ahead and talk about how being in a position of power and leading the Jews into the promised land while not being able to control your emotions is a recipe for disaster, but then I’d also be saying that the leaders of Eretz Yisrael today are also not controlled by their emotions. But since I won’t talk negatively about the leaders of Eretz Yisrael because it will be misconstrued that I am talking negatively about Eretz Yisrael, allow me to take a slightly different route.
Moshe made a mistake and instead of God and the Torah covering up his mistake and hush-hushing it, we see God tell Moshe that he was wrong, and that he won’t be able to continue to be the leader of the Jewish nation. We verbally repeat the mistake that Moshe made every single year when we go through the Torah cycle. Moshe! The (more or less…see last week’s Parsha for the details) undisputed leader of the Jewish people is called out and punished for his actions and we continue to talk about it. Why?
Perhaps it was so that we can learn an important message about Jewish leadership; just because one is in a position of power and leadership doesn’t mean they will stay there. If one messes up, they’re done. No apology tour. No “locker room talk”. No “that’s what I said, but its not what I meant”. If you act positively, you rise to a leadership position, and vice versa.
Should we factor in that this incident occurred after the passing of Miriam, who had a special connection to the miraculous wellsprings that provided water for the Jewish nation during their time in the dessert and that the lack of water during this time could have heightened the people’s anxiety and led Moshe to act out of frustration and impatience, due to no fault of his own? God doesn’t. As leaders in our own lives, let us not let emotion get the better of us.