Old Leaders in a New World | Chukas 5784

Steve Max is a professional “Simon Says” game announcer. I’m not sure if that is what he calls himself, but watching him conduct a game of Simon Says is a revelation. You’re probably familiar with the game from childhood. There’s a leader who gives instructions, but you are only supposed to follow the instructions if they are prefaced with the words “Simon says.” Steve Max has made a career out of Simon Says—but he doesn’t play with children—he plays with adults!

When Steve is running the game, it can get pretty hard to keep up!

Simply following instructions is not so simple.

Still, in our parsha, Moshe’s inability to follow God’s instructions is bewildering.

Following the death of his sister Miriam, the Jewish People ask Moshe to provide them with water. For nearly their entire time in the desert, water was miraculously provided for the Jewish People on the merit of Miriam. Now that Miriam had passed there was no water and the Jewish People were parched.

“If only we had perished with our brothers,” they complain.

Moshe asks God what do to.

God gives clear instructions, “Take your staff and go speak to the rock and water will pour forth from it.”

Moshe, however, does not quite follow God’s instructions.

Instead of speaking to the rock, Moshe hits the rock, and because of this divergence from God’s instructions, Moshe is told that he will no longer be the leader to bring the Jewish People into the land of Israel.

Why is Moshe’s punishment so harsh? God did tell him to take his staff with him—is it such a big deal that he used the staff to strike the rock rather than speak to it? How could such a small difference justify this cataclysmic shift in Jewish history?

To understand Moshe’s mistake and punishment, let’s explore the transitional Jewish leadership from Europe into the United States of America.

Read the rest on Substack, and listen to the full shiur above!