The Parsha this week is Parshas Chukas. In Parshas Chukas the Torah tells us the tragic episode that occurred in the last year of the journey of the Jews to the land of Israel – the incident of Moses hitting the rock. Miriam, the sister of Moses, had just died. Without her merit, the miraculous well that gave the Jews water for the 40 years that they traveled in the desert no longer did so. When the Jews were faced with the threat of dying from thirst, Hashem told Moses to gather the Jewish people and to speak to the rock to give them water (Numbers 19:1). Moses ended up hitting the rock, incurring rebuke and a punishment from Hashem. “Since you did not believe in Me to sanctify my name in the amongst the Children of Israel you will not enter the land of Israel… (Numbers 20:12) The Torah doesn’t specify what exactly was the sin of Moses in this incident. There are many different explanations in the commentaries as to what the sin of Moses was. Maimonides explains that Moses sin was that he got angry at the Jewish people when he screamed at them “Hear now you rebels”.
At first glance this explanation is puzzling. The Torah says that the sin of Moses was for not believing in Hashem to sanctify His name. How does that fit into the sin that Maimonides tells us was anger?
The Talmud tells us that if someone gets so angry that they rip clothes or break a utensil in their rage, they should be considered as one who serves an idol. What is the connection between serving an idol and getting angry? Again we see this connection between getting angry and lack of belief.
Our commentaries explain that when a person is able to really believe in Hashem, not just pay lip service to that idea, they will recognize the hand of Hashem in everything that goes on in this world. Part of belief in Hashem is not just that He directs the “big” things in life; not just that He is behind a BP oil spill, a volcanic ash, or a Tsunami. He is directing every detail in life; the train that may have been delayed by 5 minutes, the gas station that suddenly ran out of gas, the store that closed just when I needed it,…. When we recognize that, we begin to see the hand of Hashem in the every day occurrences that surround us. We begin to recognize Him in all that goes on in our everyday life. This is the tragedy of one who gets so frustrated and upset that they destroy a good thing in their rage. They are out of control, but they clearly don’t recognize that it is Hashem Who is directing everything that is going on in life. It is Hashem who made this particular event that they are upset about happen, and it is He who knows why it should be. To get worked up and upset about it is to fail to recognize that there is our great father who is directing all that occurs and has a reason for everything. This is like serving idols.
When Moses got angry, that feeling indicated a slight lack of belief in Hashem – a lack of recognition that everything that we experience in life is what is meant to be and is caused by the Director above. Even things that others do and affect me, in as much as they affect me, are happening through the direction of Hashem. If someone steals from me, they are accountable for their sin. I have to accept the reality that if I wasn’t supposed to lose the money then I wouldn’t have. When Moses got angry, he was held accountable for this lack of belief in Hashem that let him feel anger.
This lesson is one that can clearly help us deal with anger and frustration that come our way all the time. If the next time we come across a frustrating circumstance we can step back for a minute, take a deep breath, and simply think – “this is coming directly from Hashem – it is what is meant to be and is for the best”, we can wipe away so much frustration from our life; we can make our life so much more enjoyable and pleasant; and we can avoid so much heartache and disappointment. Hopefully with this attitude we will smile more, enjoy life more, and be more satisfied and content as we recognize the hand of Hashem in every step of our life.