Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chukat 73 Using power or leading by greatness

On a national level, Moses -by virtue of being the leader of the children of Israel lost the right to enter the Promised Land   together with the generation of the spies. On a personal level, he lost this right when he failed to sanctify and glorify God's name by speaking to the rock so it would provide water for the thirsty people and instead he hit the rock twice.

God's plan was that Moses would gather the elders and great people = eidah in front of the rock. They would engage in the study of God's teachings and in this way cause the ' shechina – God's presence to be among them. Then Moses would command the rock to give forth water. The miracle would also teach the people a lesson – that if nature – a hard rock obediently becomes a well at God's request, we – the children of Israel who appreciate the divine intelligence and good should obey God's will out of a sense of mission , with joy and happiness and certainly not feel compelled to serve him.

On the previous occasion when Moses hit the rock , the action was attributed to MOSES -  MOSES brought forth water from the rock. Here it would be different. By speaking to the rock ,the action would be attributed to the ROCK. The ROCK brought forth water.

So what went wrong? Moses extended the invitation to everybody and a miracle was performed so everybody could see the rock. The ' airev rav' – Egyptians who for expedience and not religious reasons left Egypt with the children of Israel began to provoke Moses. They said –The miracle would be a true one only if they would choose the rock ( and not the rock chosen by God ). They reasoned - Moses being a shepherd knew which rock was a source for water.

These provocations rang true with the rest of the nation and this put to an end the plan that studying God's teaching would help Moses change the laws of nature. Moses felt he had to reprimand the people and said ' Hear now, you rebels and fools! Why do think your understanding is greater than your teacher's '. When Moses took on the leadership of the children of Israel he was told that he should always speak respectfully to his people despite any provocations and defiance. This display of frustration and slight anger at having ' his buttons pushed ' was not only a regrettable moment for Moses but also interfered with his ability to perform the miracle. He then spoke to the rock – nothing happened, he then hit the rock with the rod -  only a trickle of water came out . He hit the rock again and water gushed out forming a stream.

The above event is called the ' Mei me'rivah '  - the waters of strife – despite the end result that Moses provided plenty of water for his thirsty people.

We as parents can learn the following lessons.


1 The atmosphere in a home can set the stage for positive or negative interactions. Is the atmosphere relaxed, happy, full of music, song, dance, conversation, laughter  people connecting , bonding, cooperating ?
2 When the home becomes an informal learning environment kids hear parent communication not as commands but the 'guide by the side ' offering valuable information and eternal values. This helps kids acquire a thinking and collaborative problem solving   (CPS) mindset .

B. Power or Greatness/influence

Moses used his rod=power to get water from the rock instead of speaking to the rock applying his greatness and influence. When we use power in the home, we may get the ' behavior ' we want, but not any commitment to the values underlying the behavior. In fact, using power in the form of punishment, criticism , threats , bribes, nagging, judgmental praise , is merely using ' be'shevet piv  ' the rod of his mouth( Isaiah 11:4)  ,'doing to ' kids.
We can lead by greatness and influence our kids when we use words to ' work with and collaborate with them so they become the authors of their actions. When we use power to get a kid to clean his room, it is we who have cleaned the room. And when we add rewards and punishments we take responsibility for the kid's behavior , placing the 'locus of control' outside the child.

C My Buttons were pushed

Because anger or acting out of anger is frowned upon and we don't want people to perceive that we have an anger problem we never say ' I got angry '  but use more legitimate language -  my kid pushed my buttons or my buttons were pushed. In this way we absolve ourselves from taking responsibility for displays of frustration and anger. It helps if we become aware of our situation of weakness and use mindful breathing to calm ourselves.

If we believe in the CPS mantra ' children do well if they can'  and not if they want to we will ask ourselves how can we work with them and not try to use power to coerce them.

The ' Mei Me'rivah' = waters of strife episode where Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to the rock teaches us the importance of creating a happy, trusting ,  relaxed atmosphere conducive to  informal learning where parents lead by their greatness and influence rather than using power. In this way parents are unlikely to have their buttons pushed and if that happens they will be aware of themselves , step back and calm down.

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