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   by Jacob Solomon

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Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation (of the Israelites) before the rock and he (Moses) said to them: 'Listen, you rebels! Can we get water for you out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his stick. Out in abundance came forth the water… (20:10-11)

G-d said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you will not bring this congregation into the Land that I have given them" (20:12).

Thus, as a consequence of striking the rock, Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land by Higher Authority.

The commentators differ over the substantial and operating reason. The Ramban takes the view that the word he'ehmantem should be taken literally, in its (hiphil) causative grammatical form. G-d thus rebuked Moses with: 'You did not cause them to believe in me'. Had Moses spoken to the rock and it gushed water, the people would have experienced a resurgence of faith in G-d.

The Rambam, (in Shemoneh Perakim, in introducing Pirkei Avot) holds that Moses sinned in becoming angry with the people, with 'Listen, you rebels!' The sin of anger was compounded, because the people assumed that what Moses said was a reflection of G-d's will, and if Moses was angry with them, then G-d must be angry. But, as the Rambam observes, there is no record in this chapter that G-d was angry when the people complained about the lack of water after Miriam's death.

It might be possible to explain G-d's denying Moses the leadership of Israel into the Promised Land for another reason. It was because of Moses' lack of faith in the Israelites.

For as the Rambam explained (above), G-d was not angry with the Israelites' grumbling that there was no water. Moses, it appears, was. But it may be argued that his striking the rock was not out of anger, but out of despair. His forty years of experience leading the Israelites culminating with yet another round of murmuring complaints made him feel that they were unworthy heirs to the legacy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In the classroom, a teacher may be extremely angry with his charges. But as long as he conveys the vibe that he believes in them and they know he cares for them, they will strive to reach the goals he sets - however many 'incidents' on the way. Once they get the message (even in error) that he despises them (akin to 'Listen you rebels!') the relationship has broken down. The teacher will not be able to inspire his charges with his lofty goals because they feel that he does not have faith in them.

That could explain why Moses could not bring the Israelites to the Holy Land. His exhorting the Israelites with: 'Listen, you rebels!' showed a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between Moses and the Israelites. It came out his lack of faith in the Israelites. Once the Israelites felt that, he would have lost the appropriate relationship with the Israelites to take them through the difficult stages of conquering and sharing out the land - and that role therefore fell to his disciple, Joshua.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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