One of the incredible things about our Torah is how it is able to express a multitude of emotions and subtexts in limited words.
Never is this truer than in the few words used to explain the permanent exile of Moses from the Promised Land.
After much complaining about their lack of water in the desert,
Moses is commanded by God to bring the people before a rock, hold up his staff and talk to the inanimate object. From this stone, God promises, water will flow out and quench the thirst of the stiff-necked people.
But Moses finds himself unable to find the words and instead strikes the rock twice with his staff.
Water flows and the people are able to quench their thirst, but Moses is told by God he will never enter the Promised Land.
Words create our world and yet Moses, our greatest teacher and leader, cannot manage one.
Just as when he saw the Eygptian taskmaster beating an Israelite slave, he lashes out.
One can only imagine God’s disappointment, truly believing that Moses’ journey since the Burning Bush had made him into a man of words.
Perhaps this is the crux of the harsh decree that Moses was not
allowed into the land; Moses couldn’t change and the people entering the Promised Land needed a new start.
When the going got tough, Moses returned to his old self – the man who did not take responsibility for what he said, the man who lashed out rather than used his words.
As Liberal Jews, we are called after time after time to stand before our own rock.
For me, the message of Moses’ story is that when this time comes, we have to rise above our limitations and speak, so that the Promised Land can remain very much a possibility.
υ Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships