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Two Minutes of Torah: Chukat - When you feel so mad


One of the T.V. programs that our daughter Gabby likes to watch is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is based on the Mr. Rogers character.  I like her watching this program because all of the episodes have an important lesson to teach the children who are watching them.  In one of them Daniel sings “When you feel so mad that you want to roar take a deep breath and count to four”.  As with all of the songs in Daniel Tiger it's a bit of an ear worm, it gets stuck in your head, and Gabby has also learnt the song.  Now when she is getting upset we say to her “What does Daniel Tiger say?” and she'll sing back to us “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”
Imagine how things might have been different for Moses in our Torah if he'd watched that episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  This week Moses has to deal with the death of his sister Miriam, and then as the community search for water, once again, they complain.  Approaching Aaron and Moses they say: “If only we had perished when our brothers perished at the instance of Adonai.  Why have you brought Adonai's congregation into this wilderness for us and our beasts to die there?” (Num. 20:3-4).  
Once again Moses is exasperated by this stiff necked people.  He goes to God, who instructs him and Aaron to “take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts” (Num. 20:8).  But when Moses gets up there, with the people surrounding him, he says: ‘“Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod (Num. 20:10-11).  It is for this that he is punished by God and told that he will not enter into the Promised Land.
It is understandable at this point that Moses was exasperated.  He had suffered the death of his sister, he was once again dealing with the Israelites complaining, and after leading these challenging people for so many years it is not so surprising that he had reached his limit.  

Moses could have behaved in a different way.  He could have counted to four and found a way to speak to the rock or to deal with the people differently.  But it appears as we read the narrative that Moses just gets more and more worked up until eventually there is no turning back and his anger gets the better of him.  For all of us, as we read this account of Moses we need to learn from his example and while there might be factors that are causing us to have a short fuse.  It's still important to find that way to take a deep breath, count to four and deal with the matter calmly without losing our tempers “one, two, three, four.”

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