חקת

This week’s parsha is so jam-packed it is hard to know where to start.  From the strange ritual of the parah adumah (Red Heifer) the parsha goes on to detail the death of Miriam and the subsequent (connected?) loss of water.  This leads to complaining from the Israelites which culminates in Moshe (in)famously striking the rock to produce water, contrary to Hashem’s wishes.  After trying to secure safe passage through various foreign nations’ territories, Hashem then informs Moshe and Aharon that Aharon is to die, as both he and Moshe were punished for striking the rock and they will not merit to enter Cana’an.  The parsha ends with a successful campaign against the Amorites.  While much can be said about all of the episodes in the parsha, I want to focus on Moshe.  Here we have fast-forwarded to the fortieth year in the desert (whether ‘factual’ in any sense is not my focus right now), and the leader who was charged – against his will – with taking the Israelites out of slavery and into the promised land has faced little more than complaint and setback, most recently with the debacle of the spies.  If that wasn’t enough, Moshe loses his only sister, which may have had something to do with why the most trusted servant of Hashem fails to follow a command, which in turn leads to his being punished and never being able to experience the completion of the mission he started.  Moshe then loses his brother, and is left for the remaining year (give or take) of his life to proceed as sole leader from his generation (Calev is never described as an equal to Moshe) as the final events in the wilderness unfold.  The character trait that most easily jumps to mind in describing Moshe is humble (Bamidbar 12:3), but here I see anger and sorrow, mingled especially in his hitting of the rock.

How does one still cope

Leading a stiff-necked people

After so much loss?

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