In studying Torah, we often look to Moses for life lessons. Sometimes, we learn that Moses is an exemplar of values we should strive to emulate. For example, we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu (“Moses our Teacher”) that humility can help us keep our egos in check and help ensure that we are motivated less by our own needs and more by the desire to serve a greater good.
However, in this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, Moses lets anger drive his actions and the consequences are particularly devastating. Responding to the Israelites’ on-going complaints about lack of water, Moses allows his anger to interfere with carrying out God’s instructions to use words to bring forth water from a rock. Moses strikes the rock with his staff, not once, but twice, and God’s response is to deny him the privilege of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land (Num. 20:2-13).
Moses isn’t perfect and neither are we; anger is a human emotion. It is neither good nor bad, but how we choose to respond and act on our anger is much more important. Moses’ actions teach us that responding out of anger often makes a bad situation worse. At a time of the year when temperatures soar, with regard to our interactions with others, let’s try to let “cooler heads” prevail.
Rabbi Sandra Bellush