Rabbi and Rebbetzen Hackenbroch, family and friends,
I’m so delighted to be here today to celebrate my Batmitzvah with all of you.
A clever man once said: The wiser a man is, the less talkative he will be. Mummy, Daddy, family, friends and members of the shul. I’m sorry to say but I have been told that I sometimes talk too much. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered in this week’s Parashah, Chukat, that Moshe actually got in trouble with G-d because he DIDN’T talk! Bubbling with excitement, it was good to know that G-d loves a chatty person.
This week's Parashah has one of the strangest incidents in the Torah. The Jews have been walking in the desert for 40 years and they're thirsty. So, G-d tells Moshe to speak to the rock and water will come out. Forty years before this Moshe was in the same situation but was told to hit the rock instead. He did and water came pouring out.
This time, Moshe is asked to speak to the rock. Moshe hits the rock. Nothing happens, so Moshe hits the rock a second time, and water comes out.
G-d's reaction to this: "Since you HIT the rock rather than speaking to it, you will not lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel".
So Moshe is actually in trouble with G-d here.
What did Moshe do so wrong?
This is the mighty Moshe who led the Jewish people through the desert and with Hashem’s help sent Pharaoh the Ten Plagues, split the Red Sea and brought the Torah down from Mount Sinai. Now he makes one little mistake and Hashem takes his dream away of entering Israel?
And even more confusing, Moshe was asked to do the same action of hitting the rock 40 years earlier and it was thought to be the right thing to do.
We learn an interesting life lesson here.
Our previous Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Sacks, explains it like this. Forty years before, when Moshe was asked to HIT the rock, the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt – and “hitting” was a language they understood. As slaves they were hit regularly, they knew no different. But this time, Moshe was asked to lead his people who'd grown up as free men, women and children. They were not people who liked to be hurt, rather they were a generation which required the softer approach of "speaking."
Notice how in our Parashah, Moshe hits the rock twice. First, he hit the rock and no water came out. At that moment he had the chance to THINK about what he had done and listen more carefully to G-d's instruction to "speak." But instead Moshe ignores what G-d says and just hits the rock again.
The Torah is trying to teach us to think for ourselves. Not to get caught up in any one way of doing things. The Torah is trying to teach us that we need to be more flexible in life. Moshe was supposed to be the leader of the Jewish people, but in order to lead a people, one has to be flexible and not get caught up in always being right.
Just because it worked once, doesn’t mean it will work forever.
This is a powerful message.
Just take a moment to stop and think before you say or do something. Is this right? Should I do this differently? By asking yourself these questions, we are already wiser.
Today I want to mention two wise men.
I wasn’t lucky enough to meet my Grandpa Harold who would have been so proud on this special day, but I know how learned he was, with so much knowledge.
I was very close to my Poppa. Poppa was kind, patient and amazing at general knowledge. Poppa was very friendly to everyone and he always did his best to make people feel comfortable. No one could ever say a bad word about him and everyone loved him.
In order to be liked, we need to be flexible. We need to see who is before us, think and only then speak. Each person in the world is different and each generation is different.
Moshe was referred to as Moshe Rabbeinu, this means Moshe our Teacher, not our leader, he was a leader for a time but he taught us forever. A true leader is someone who can teach and inspire and those teachings will live forever and are timeless. Moshe showed that he was inflexible and therefore unfit to lead the Jewish people anymore. His punishment may seem harsh but great people are judged by Hashem at a higher level with higher expectations.
If you want to have a good and happy life, you should bend for others. Being stubborn leaves you lonely. Refusing to apologise leaves you angry. Being mean doesn’t make you feel good. Some people forget that they have the right to be wrong. They may see being wrong as showing weakness. It’s so important to be flexible.
Interestingly, the Talmud also tells us that Queen Esther was ‘green’. This does not mean Esther had green skin or was in anyway green. Rather, it is teaching us about her essence.
Her essence was symbolised by the colour green. Green is a colour that is made up of two primary colours – blue and yellow. Blue symbolises coolness and yellow symbolises warmth.
Esther's inner nature was made up of two opposite forces – hot and passionate like the sun and refreshing like water. Esther is teaching us a powerful life lesson, that in order to be the best possible you, you need to have the coolness of water.
You need to let things go and be flexible but at the same time when opportunity comes your way you need to grab it with passion and be your best person.
In honour of my Batmitzvah, I hope that we all learn from Moshe Rabbeinu and Queen Esther, that in order to live a good life, you need both of these qualities, coolness and passion.