Sermon for Parshat Chukat Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum July 9, 2005 2 Tammuz 5764
In today’s Torah portion, Chukat, we read the story describing the mystical power of water. The biblical narrative describes how the Israelites, while wandering in the desert, become thirsty and restless. Following Miriam’s death, the portable well that accompanies them through the wilderness, begins to dry, leaving them dehydrated, scared and doubtful. When the masses rally and demand water, Moshe turns to G-d for guidance.
G-d instructs Moshe to speak to the rock and water will emerge. Instead, Moshe becomes emotional; calling the protesting nation, "Rebels" and hit’s the rock twice with his staff. G-d appears before Moshe and Aaron. He tells them that since they didn’t heed the instructions, choosing to hit the rock and not speak to it, they will be denied entrance into the Holy Land. As the saying goes, "The rest is history."
Moshe, the great leader and pious man who led an exemplary life of unparalleled devotion to G-d, doesn’t get to step into Israel because he hit a rock! Inconceivable! Volumes of biblical commentaries fill libraries with discussions about why Moshe didn’t follow explicit instructions and why his punishment was so severe. There are numerous scholarly explanations and contrasting opinions about this historical incident. However, all agree that even this unimaginable event can’t diminish the miracle of a rock spewing forth water as witnessed by the Jewish nation.
What lessons can we learn from this parsha? Sometimes we need to speak softly to the rock. A rock can represent a hardened heart or an impossible situation. Who hasn’t experienced the frustration of talking to someone only to get a stone-cold reaction or no reaction at all. You exert so much energy into a project only to find that all your hard work comes to naught.
Everyone has been between a rock and a hard place, facing difficulties and dealing with challenges that seem overwhelming. In Chukat, we learn to deal with these unbearable tasks with tolerance, persistence and reason. When the going gets tough, the tough should take a deep breath and remain calm.
Proverbs 62:3 (JPS edition) Only for God wait thou in stillness, my soul; for from Him cometh my hope. He only is my rock and my salvation, my high tower, I shall not be moved. Upon God restate my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, ye people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
May G-d bless us all to deal with adversity and hardships with wisdom, strength and patience. Shabbat Shalom.