Double Mitzvah – Hukkat

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Tamar Fox. Check out last week’s post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Korach.

Rated PGThis week’s parashah is a tough one. After learning the laws that deal with the impurity of a corpse, Miriam dies. The Israelites complain about having no water, Moses hits a rock to make water come out of it, and then God tells Moses that he won’t be brought into the Promised Land because he didn’t follow God’s instructions to speak to the rock, hitting the rock rather than talking to it. Subsequently, Aaron dies, and his son Elazar replaces him as High Priest. A plague of serpents attacks the Israelites, and after the people beg Moses to make it stop, he is able to make a copper serpent that has healing powers for those who have been bitten. Finally, the Israelites march on through the land of the Amorites, seizing it from King Sihon.

There’s a lot going on here, but what struck me this week is the important distinction between speaking and acting. Moses and Aaron are punished for hitting the rock instead of speaking to it, the way that God had commanded. But the end result–the people getting water–is the same. So what’s the big deal? And how could it possibly be bad enough that it warrants not letting Moses and Aaron into the Promised Land?

As you might expect, the classical commentators have a field day with this story, and have a variety of explanations for why the crime warranted the punishment in this case. But what strikes me is that Moses, who has such a close and personal relationship with God, didn’t feel comfortable talking to God in the way he’d been asked. This speaks to a truth about close relationships–sometimes even the person we know the best can be hard to talk to. We all feel fear and shame at times, and we’d rather not voice it. But not voicing it means we’re blocking ourselves off from getting the comfort and satisfaction that comes with real trust. And skipping over the talking part to get right to the action–it might seem right for a minute, but it’s likely to end up coming back to haunt you.

Shabbat shalom!

Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.
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  • Ayo Oppenheimer

    Yes, the importance of communication cannot be underestimated. Though verbal communication tends to be most effective, there are many ways to share feelings and – if you are anxious or have trouble with confrontation – a thoughtful, hand-written note may be the way to go. It’s wonderful that we can learn such important lessons through the lives, loves and errors of our ancestors.