The minute that Moshe is challenged by Korach as the leader of the Jewish people, God swallows up Korach and his entire rebellious cohort.
But then God says, “I want each tribe to take a staff, and the staff that blossoms will truly represent who should be the leader of the Jewish people.”
Why is there a need for another miracle?
Imagine a board meeting. The members begin to discuss the rabbi and immediately, those who are against the rabbi get swallowed up. Is there really still a need for a follow-up vote on whether or not to support the rabbi?
And yet, in our parsha, even after God makes it clear that Moshe is the leader and not Korach, He still demands that there be a blossoming of a staff to appoint the leader.
In the next parsha, Chukat, there’s the tragic episode in which Moshe is told by God, ve’dibartem el ha’sela. which really means, “and they [the Jewish people] should speak to the rock.” But what Moshe does is to hit the rock, and because of that, he cannot lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel.
In both of these cases, there’s a common denominator. Our goal as leaders, whether it is in our families, in other areas of our lives, in the community or greater society, is to inspire change – not to compel it. Our goal is to create a collaborative environment, not to compel a vision.
What God is saying after Korach and his cohort is swallowed up is, I want people to realize that Moshe is the leader – not because his opposition has been swallowed up, but because his staff blossoms, and that is what defines leadership.
And that’s the challenge that Moshe has in Parshat Chukat. God is telling Moshe, the people need water. They have to learn that they don’t just have to go through you, they can send their own email, their own WhatsApp, their own letter to Me, to God.
The Jewish people have to grow up. They have to realize that they have a powerful voice.
VeDibartem el ha’sela – “speak to the rock.” Teach them they can also pray, teach them they can also engage.
But instead Moshe takes a direction which does not allow the Jewish people to have a voice. And because of that God determines the need for a new leader to replace Moshe. The leader will be Moshe’s student, but his style of leadership will be much different. The Jewish people will engage with him. It won’t be a top-down model; it will be much more collaborative.
What powerful messages for us, and the type of lives we lead, especially during this time in which we’re seeing so much unrest throughout the world.
Imagine if we realize that we have a voice to make a difference, to inspire change in safe and creative and constructive ways.
We can do that, and that’s what we’re seeing all over the world.
It’s not about striking the rock. It’s about speaking truth to power.
It’s about allowing our voices to blossom.
And through that, we create leadership that is eternal, and make changes that will better society for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren.