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June 23, 2018 | The End of An Era – Parashat Hukkat by Rabbi Tucker 

Over the past year, many high profile organizations have undergone dramatic changes in leadership.  Harvey Weinstein, amidst allegations (now confirmed) of sexual abuse, was dismissed from the film-studio he co-founded, inaugurating an exodus of other similarly disgraced tycoons including Steve Wynn, Mario Batali, and John Lasseter of Pixar.  Under less fraught circumstances, Facebook recently announced the largest executive shuffle in company history, reorganizing top talent into three main divisions designed to improve communication and user privacy.  And many of us will remember last summer when Phil Jackson of the New York Knicks was forced to step down as President of the team when, after a stellar record of championships as head coach for both the Bulls and the Lakers, he failed to deliver in his three years at the Knicks’ helm.  Leaders can be tremendously successful and effective and respected until all of a sudden they’re not.  Indeed, that is one of the lessons of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Hukkat.

Parashat Hukkat is often thought of as the story of Moses’ downfall, as he stands in Meribah faced with an angry community of Israelites complaining of thirst.  Traditional interpretation has it that Moses hits the rock rather than speaking to it in order to bring forth nourishment for the people thereby incurring Divine wrath, yet this explanation does not entirely hold water (if you excuse the pun).  If it was Moses alone who hit the rock, why is his brother Aaron also implicated in the crime?  And if Moses was meant simply to speak to the rock, why did God have him first take up his staff, a particularly confounding direction given that back in Exodus it was precisely through striking rock that Moses was instructed to bring water for the people.  Commentators throughout the ages have struggled to understand the exact nature of Moses’ error along with why this act, amongst all those committed by the prophet, is seen as so singularly egregious as to bar Moses from ultimately entering the Promised Land.  Compared with other lapses – such as Aaron and the Golden Calf or Moses smashing the 10 Commandments – the indiscretions here in our Torah portion look positively benign.

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Rabbi Annie Tucker












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Thu, August 16 2018 5 Elul 5778