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June 9, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Chukkat

In this coming week’s portion, Moses strikes a rock to get water; apparently, God then informs Moses that “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.” (Numb. 20:12). The leading commentators are divided as to why God wants to punish Moses.

One possible reason is that Moses states “shall we get water for you out of this rock”? (Numb. 20:10) implying that Moses and Aaron are responsible for the miracle rather than God.

This is not the first time Moses said something that appears to show a lack of trust in God; for example, when the people demand meat, he asks God whether “enough flocks and herds [could] be gathered for them to suffice for them” (Num. 11:22).

But Milgrom points out that Moses’ prior doubts “had been uttered in private, but here they were expressed in public, before the assembled throngs of Israel.”

But why is that so bad?  Milgrom points out that Israel “still had to be purged of its pagan background”, which included the use of magic to coerce the gods.  To the extent Moses appears to be creating miracles without Divine assistance, that might seem a bit too close for comfort to pagan magic.

What does Moses’s error have to do with us?  Quite a bit, actually.  Moses’s remarks are much more serious because they are uttered in public; the lesson is that the more readers or listeners we have, the more careful we must be about our words (something I’ll have to remember in faculty meetings!)

Of course, all of this merely explains what Moses did wrong, not why he was denied entry into the Land of Israel.  For a thoughtful discussion of this issue go to http://vbm-torah.org/archive/sichot73/34-73chukat.htm (suggesting that new generation of leadership necessary)>

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One Comment

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  1. Shira Salamone / Jun 10 2013 12:20 pm

    Thanks for the URL–interesting reading. Why not post it as a link?

    ” . . . Moses appears to be creating miracles without Divine assistance . . . ” Good point.

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