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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

With These Hands

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

In Parshat Chukat, after a lifetime of service, after a transition from the Nile, to the palace, to the desert, to becoming an agent of God to liberate the Hebrews from slavery. After generations in the desert, after endless complaints and an endless stream of representing the Hebrews before God, Moses fails to heed God's directions and brings water from the rock with his staff instead of with his voice. It happens in an instant. Was it instinct? Was it done with intention?

Was it influenced by anger? Was Moses momentarily convinced that he could bring water from the rock without Divine powers?

All of us make these impulsive movements at some point in our lives. These are movements that change the course of our lives. After we complete these small but life changing actions, we exist in that moment where we need to adjust to this new unfamiliar reality. This is just one of Moses' decisive moments during his lifetime, but this one carries a heavy punishment as he will not be able to enter The Land.


....and the end arrives before the final page

you won't be there for the last scene

but your name will appear over and over

in the credits

it was a momentary lapse

a slip backwards

the space between words

a breath

a few seconds

and it was done

tap, tap


you picked up your head

with angry eyes

you heard the screams,

the grumbles

the cries

saw the red, angry faces

your vision blurred

You heard your orders

you heard

as your head dropped to your chest

words, commands, details

but hands are nimbler than the tongue

they swiftly rose

staff tightly held

between whitened knuckles

tap, tap

and the water flowed

you didn't believe enough

you believed too much in yourself

tap, tap

did you?

could you?

In the space of two heartbeats

and it was finished

and the water flowed

you gazed down at your hands

holding a worn staff

did they move on their own accord?

You stop and wonder what you just did.

Did it register at all?

You were on auto-pilot.

After so many years

how could you not be?

you misread

you misheard

your old ears heard it all wrong

after all, you are just human

you forgot

just this one time

a momentary lapse in judgement

you never thought

you overthought

you overestimated

you underestimated

you thought too much of yourself

you thought nothing of yourself

you are sorry

a gnawing grows inside of you

and the water flows

but it is too late

undoing the work of a lifetime

in the space of two breaths

let that sink in

as the water flows

as the noise of the crowd is blanketed by

the roar of the water

you are so tired

the work of a lifetime

you stare at your hands

your hands that have saved

that have helped make miracles

that rose

in the space of a moment

tap, tap

and the water flowed

at this moment

you look backwards and see

the past winding far behind you

your future on a mountain top

You would never overstay your welcome

You could not

you get no second chances

no redos

and the end arrives before the final page

you won't be there for the last scene

but your name will appear over and over

in the credits

and your eyes close

and the water flows

Numbers 20:8-12

“You and your brother Aaron 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.”

Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as He had commanded him.

Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock; and he said to them, “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. Out came copious water, and the community and their beasts drank.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.”

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