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Moses' Big Mistake: A Rabbinic Perspective
An unhappy and ungrateful Israel is described in the following verses. Miriam has died and with it her well, the well that watered Israel, has gone with her. Israel is panicked with thirst and once again complains to Moses. God calmly instructs Moshe to speak to a rock, and Moshe instead, hits the rock twice while chastising Israel. God cuts Moshe no slack and gives him and Aaron the most severe of punishments. They will not be allowed to see the fulfillment of their life's work. They will leave this world without crossing the Jordan.
1. Note that God is behaving patiently while Moshe is the one who is impatient. Why is God understanding in this case, while in previous parshas he has been less understanding, and a harsher judge?
2. It is clear that Moshe is angry. Why is Aaron punished along with him?
3. What is God's literal complaint against Moses?
4. Is there a difference between doing what God says and sanctifying Him??
1 Now they came, the Children of Israel, the entire community, (to the) Wilderness of Tzyn, in the first New-Moon. The people stayed in Kadesh. Miryam died there, and she was buried there.
2 Now there was no water for the community, so they assembled against Moshe and against Aharon;
3 the people quarreled with Moshe, they said, saying: Now would that we had expired when our brothers expired before the presence of YHWH!
4 Now why did you bring the assembly of YHWH into this wilderness, to die there, we and our cattle?
5 Now why did you make us go up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place, not a place of seeds and figs, vines and pomegranates and water (there is) none to drink!
6 Moshe and Aharon came away from the presence of the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Appointment, and flung themselves upon their faces. The Glory of YHWH was seen by them,
7 and YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying:
8 Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aharon your brother; you are to speak to the boulder before their eyes so that it gives forth its water, thus you are to bring out for them water from the boulder, that you may give-drink to the assembly and to their cattle.
9 So Moshe took the staff from before the presence of YHWH, as he had commanded him.
10 And Moshe and Aharon assembled the assembly facing the boulder. He said to them: Now hear, (you) rebels, from this boulder must we bring you out water?
11 And Moshe raised his hand and struck the boulder with his staff, twice, so that abundant water came out; and the community and their cattle drank.
12 Now YHWH said to Moshe and to Aharon: Because you did not have-trust in me to treat-me-as-holy before the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore: you (two) shall not bring this assembly into the land that I am giving them!
13 Those were the Waters of Meriva/Quarreling, where the Children of Israel quarreled with YHWH, and he was hallowed through them.
Rashi's Commentary on Verse 12
TO TREAT ME AS HOLY: Because if you had spoken to the rock as I had asked, I would have been sanctified before the whole community. They would have said, "Look at this rock which doesn't speak, doesn't hear, and requires no income. Look at how it fulfills the word of God, shouldn't we be even more responsive [to His word]?
Your Rashi Navigator
1. How did Moshe err?
2. Did you see it the way Rashi did?
3. How did he understand it differently?
4. How did Moshe fail according to Rashi?