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Parashat Hukat-Balak – Leaders- Held To a Higher Standard


Our parashah this week begins a new era in the life of a new generation since nearly a thirty-eight-year gap had passed since the previous event.

When the new generation reached the wilderness of Zin and vehemently complained to Moshe and Aharon about the lack of water for their families and animals, Moshe is commanded to miraculously produce water by speaking to the rock.

Moshe then angrily excoriates the complaining people by declaring “Listen now you rebels!” He lost his composure and hurled an epithet at G-d’s people calling them defiant. Maimonides comments that this moment of rage that Moshe expressed forfeited his right to lead G-d’s nation into the promised land.

His sin of anger was compounded because the people assumed that whatever Moshe said was a reflection of G-d’s will, and if Moshe was angry with them, then G-d must also be angry. However, we don’t find anywhere that He was angered by the people’s complaints. Why? Because it was a legitimate request, even though they voiced it more provocatively than they should have.

Clearly, Moshe was held to a higher standard of behavior than anyone else. After all, who has never gotten angry? Yet, from this incident, we see the gravity of losing one’s composure and this principle can apply to everyone.

Anger is a normal human reaction, however, expressing anger in words or actions is another matter. For example, a person with a healthy ego will not take great offense at an unkind comment, and someone who is truly secure in his faith that G-d will provide for all his needs, will not act hysterically to what appears to be a threat to his economic security.

Although it is understood that a person who is provoked will feel anger, the Torah gently guides us: “In your anger, do not seek revenge and do not bear a grudge.”

Rabbi Shaul