Parshas Chukas - Subtle But Sublime
In this week's parsha Moshe receives a major slap on the wrist. He is
punished by not being allowed into the Holy Land of Israel. While the
Children of Israel were travelling through the wilderness, they came to
Merivah and could not find water. This was just after the prophetess Miriam
passed away in whose merit the miraculous wellsprings flowed for the
Children of Israel. G-d told Moshe to go to a specific rock, and _speak_ to
the rock and it will give water. Moshe _hit_ the rock twice, and was
punished for doing so rather than speaking to the rock. "Because you failed
to foster belief in Me by sanctifying Me before the eyes of the Children of
Israel, for that you will not bring this congregation to the land which I
am giving them."
The Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Noach Brezovsky, of blessed memory,
enumerates several of the troubling questions regarding this topic in the
- What is the difference between this time when G-d asked Moshe to speak
to the rock, and the time almost 40 years earlier when the Children of
Israel had just left Egypt and G-d told Moshe to hit the rock?
- Why is speaking to the rock and bringing out water a higher level than
hitting the rock and bring out water from it? Both are supernatural
- What greater fostering of faith in G-d would have resulted from speaking
to the rock as opposed to hitting it?
- Why in reality did Moshe hit the rock as opposed to speaking to it? And
why did he hit it twice?
- How does the punishment of not going into Israel fit the crime?
Briefly, the Slonimer Rebbe prefaces that the level of effort that a
person must make to acquire his needs is directly proportionate to his
level of faith and trust in G-d. The degree which G-d's hand is apparent to
someone relates to his level of knowledge and recognition that G-d's hand
is active in his life. He explains that truly righteous people carefully
consider just how much effort is required on their part to bring about a
desired result. This, being that everything is in G-d's hands and He can
bring anything about without anyone's input. The Slonimer writes that
mainly through trust in G-d do we merit the Land of Israel.
Accordingly, we can explain what happened with Moshe hitting the rock.
Moshe's deep understanding of the Children of Israel led him to view their
level of effort required as needing to hit the rock even twice - doing an
action - as opposed to just speaking to the rock - putting in a request and
sitting back while
G-d does His.
Moshe reasoned that if many years back, after leaving Egypt, when the
Children of Israel had just experienced the splitting of the Sea of Reeds,
and they still needed the rock to be hit to extract the miraculous water,
how much more so now. Now that they had the Golden Calf behind them, and
the incident with the spies, would they need to put in physical effort -
hitting the rock.
Moshe didn't fully understand G-d's intentions. G-d wanted to teach His
love and closeness to the Children of Israel by performing this miracle for
them. He wished to teach them this lesson that He makes Himself apparent to
us according to our working recognition of His involvement in the universe,
and of course, in our own personal experiences.
Another difference between years earlier when Moshe had to hit the rock,
and now, when it sufficed to speak to the rock, is that now the Children of
Israel had already received the Torah. Torah is comprised of words. Now the
emphasis is on the life-giving words of Torah, and G-d wanted to convey to
the Children of Israel that words of Torah have the greatest capacity to
effect change for the good.
Speaking to the rock was designed to raise the nation's level of faith and
trust in G-d as a prerequisite to entering Israel. This fostering of faith
is not adding something new to our consciousness, but rather getting in
touch with the G-dly spark within us, and fanning it and making it more
focal and functional in our everyday lives. Since Moshe hit the rock, he
held back this important lesson from the Children of Israel, which was
necessary for their entrance to Israel. Consequently, he was not allowed to
Faith is the strong foundation of Judaism. Without it the rest of the
"building" can not possibly be strong. The Torah teaches us how to live
with faith and trust, and what it's relevance is on a daily basis. Faith is
our ticket to Israel, and living as G-d wants us to live. Let's cultivate
our faith in G-d.
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.