Moses and the Rock

Jun 21, 2015

וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּל־הָעֵדָה מִדְבַּר־צִן בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם בְּקָדֵשׁ וַתָּמָת שָׁם מִרְיָם וַתִּקָּבֵר שָׁם׃

The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

Numbers 20:1

הֵמָּה מֵי מְרִיבָה אֲשֶׁר־רָבוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־יְהֹוָה וַיִּקָּדֵשׁ בָּם׃

Those are the Waters of Meribah—meaning that the Israelites quarrelled with Hashem—through which He affirmed His sanctity.

Numbers 20:13

Miriam dies and is buried in the Wilderness of Zin. There, the people run out of water and begin to complain. Not only have Moses and Aaron not led them to a fertile land as promised, but there isn’t even any water to drink! They bemoan the fact that they did not die in Korach’s rebellion, because at least that way they would not be suffering now.

 

Moses and Aaron fall on their faces and God tells them to take the staff and gather the people of Israel and speak to a certain rock which He will show them. Water will come from the rock and Moses and Aaron are to give that water to the people to drink, along with their animals.

 

As commanded, Moses and Aaron take the staff and gather the people, as instructed. Moses scolds the people, asking, “Shall we bring forth water from this rock?” He strikes the rock twice and water flows forth. The people are pleased, and slake their thirst, but God condemns Moses and Aaron for neglecting to sanctify His name in the eyes of the nation. He tells them they will not enter the Promised Land as a result of their actions.

 

The passage is a troubling one and Jewish thinkers have struggled with it for centuries. What did Moses and Aaron do wrong to warrant such a punishment? The Israel Bible brings down one opinion, stating that by hitting the rock, Moses gave the people the misimpression that he, not God, was causing the water to flow. Thus, Moses missed an opportunity to glorify God in the eyes of the nation. From this we can learn that it is not enough to recognize the hand of God in our own lives, we must also make sure others recognize His presence.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God chose to punish Moses and Aaron by barring them from the Holy Land? Does the punishment suit the “crime”?

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