Per Ben’s encouragement, I am going to jump into his territory a bit and discuss some elements of the current Parsha.The second time the Jews run out of water, is when Moses calls out to G-d, and G-d commands him to strike a specific rock with his staff. He does, the rock splits open, and water gushes out, thus saving the Jews. The rock, which became known as Miriam’s Well, travels with them for 40 years.
But when Miriam passes away, the rock that nourished the Jews with water no longer works. The “well” literally goes dry. So the people come to Moses and Aaron, and complain and express their frustration. Moses and Aaron then move to the holy tent where G-d speaks to them.
“The L‑rd spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water. You shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give the congregation and their livestock to drink.”
Moses took the staff from before the L‑rd as He had commanded him. Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock, and he said to them, “Now listen, you rebels, can we draw water for you from this rock?” Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, when an abundance of water gushed forth, and the congregation and their livestock drank.”And because of this one incident, Moses and Aaron are not allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Wait, what??? I always thought that this was so extreme. I mean look at what Aaron and especially Moses did for the Jewish people. And not to see their lifelong dream fulfilled? That’s harsh.
And it is harsh, but my understanding was was long before I truly grasped the full story and the Torah, and while I am very far from being a Torah scholar, things make much more sense to me. And the different theories are remarkable.
Ben explained that because the incident took place publically, G-d had to punish them. The Jewish people had to see that not even Moses could get away with defying G-d. This is Rashi’s take. In the fantastic article “Moses Strikes The Rock: The Full Story” by By Shlomo Chaim Kesselmanhe writes “That their sin was due to the public nature of their infraction, saying that the reason the sin was treated so severely was because it happened publicly.” Rashi also says that Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, but because he hit it instead, he was punished.
Nachmanides (Ramban) disagrees on the reason and said that it was because “Moses and Aaron’s sin was that they said, “Can we draw water for you from this rock?” implying that they had the power to perform the miracle, and not that their power came from G‑d.” He also believes the sin was Moses’ anger.
But to me, the most fascinating idea comes from the Zohar and that is that Moses had to disobey G-d. According to the Tikunei Zohar says Had Moses spoken to the rock, as he was commanded, the waters of Torah would come out freely and flowing. One would not need to toil and struggle to understand the Torah, for its light would shine openly and simply. Had Moses spoken to the rock, the Jews would see G‑dliness openly, and connect with G‑d easily.”Speaking to a rock? It seems odd. But seeing the miracle in everything is what Judaism is all about. And allowing G-d to guide us to a rock… and to command us to speak to it is powerful.
Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, who I will be referring to a lot in an upcoming post, told me about a Kabbalistic view about singing to the rock. He told me that the Kabbalists believed the second rock ONLY gave water if you sang to it… and he told me to sing to the rock… to give and to share… that this was part of my new and holy quest.
The article draws an even more powerful conclusion… and that is that Moses knew exactly what he was doing, and knew he had to hit the rock AND be punished. “… perhaps we can understand why Moses and Aaron had to die before they could enter the Land of Israel. This was not as a punishment, heaven forbid, but rather the first step in the fulfillment of Moses’ goal. Moses and Aaron represented pure G‑dly revelation; their very existence revealed G‑dliness and inspired people to serve Him. Living in their presence made it easy to connect with G‑d. Therefore, Moses and Aaron could not enter the Land, so that their own plan to create a strong bond between G‑d and the Jewish people could come to fruition.”
Some of us will speak to the rock, some of us will sing to it, and yes, some of us will strike it. The path will be determined by Hashem. He will guide us and command us. And if we pay attention, and listen and connect with G-d, we will lose our anger, gain Torah and never be thirsty again.