Thursday, July 01, 2004

A late dvar for parshat Chukas: For what sin was Moshe punished?

The most common assumption is that Moshe was punished for striking the rock, instead of speaking to it.

However, I do not think this is so clear from the psukim. After all, in the original command, Moshe was told to take his staff.
Bamidbar 20:8

קַח אֶת-הַמַּטֶּה, וְהַקְהֵל אֶת-הָעֵדָה אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל-הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם, וְנָתַן מֵימָיו; וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן-הַסֶּלַע, וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת-הָעֵדָה וְאֶת-בְּעִירָם.
'Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle drink.'

Moshe takes the staff, speaks to the *people*, and hits the rock, twice.

וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-הַמַּטֶּה, מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר, צִוָּהוּ.
And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as He commanded him.

וַיַּקְהִלוּ מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, אֶת-הַקָּהָל--אֶל-פְּנֵי הַסָּלַע; וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, שִׁמְעוּ-נָא הַמֹּרִים--הֲמִן-הַסֶּלַע הַזֶּה, נוֹצִיא לָכֶם מָיִם.
And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said unto them: 'Hear now, ye rebels; are we to bring you forth water out of this rock?'

וַיָּרֶם מֹשֶׁה אֶת-יָדוֹ, וַיַּךְ אֶת-הַסֶּלַע בְּמַטֵּהוּ--פַּעֲמָיִם; וַיֵּצְאוּ מַיִם רַבִּים, וַתֵּשְׁתְּ הָעֵדָה וּבְעִירָם.
And Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle.

Perhaps the way one "speaks" to a rock is by hitting it. And perhaps he was told to take the staff for the purpose of hitting the rock.

In the past, miracles were done with the staff, either by striking things or waving it over them.

Consider Shemot 7 for example.

כֹּה, אָמַר ה, בְּזֹאת תֵּדַע, כִּי אֲנִי ה: הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מַכֶּה בַּמַּטֶּה אֲשֶׁר-בְּיָדִי, עַל-הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹר--וְנֶהֶפְכוּ לְדָם.
thus saith the LORD: In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD--behold, I will smite with the rod that is in my hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.

and in 20:
וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-כֵן מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה, וַיָּרֶם בַּמַּטֶּה וַיַּךְ אֶת-הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹר, לְעֵינֵי פַרְעֹה, וּלְעֵינֵי עֲבָדָיו; וַיֵּהָפְכוּ כָּל-הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר-בַּיְאֹר, לְדָם.
"And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood."

with the plague of frogs it seems he just let it hover over the water:

Shemot 8:

וַיֹּאמֶר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֱמֹר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן נְטֵה אֶת-יָדְךָ בְּמַטֶּךָ, עַל-הַנְּהָרֹת עַל-הַיְאֹרִים וְעַל-הָאֲגַמִּים; וְהַעַל אֶת-הַצְפַרְדְּעִים, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
"And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Say unto Aaron: Stretch forth thy hand with thy rod over the rivers, over the canals, and over the pools, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.' "

but this stretching out might also convey hitting. For the next plague, lice, we see:

וַיֹּאמֶר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֱמֹר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, נְטֵה אֶת-מַטְּךָ וְהַךְ אֶת-עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ; וְהָיָה לְכִנִּם, בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
"And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Say unto Aaron: Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.'"

Thus, hitting things with the staff to accomplish miracles is not farfetched, nor is it, of necessity, to be considered a lack of faith.

Yet, Moshe and Aharon (both of whom were told to gather and speak to the rock) are punished for a lack of faith of sorts:

Bamidbar 20:12-13

וַיֹּאמֶר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, יַעַן לֹא-הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי, לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--לָכֵן, לֹא תָבִיאוּ אֶת-הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי לָהֶם.
הֵמָּה מֵי מְרִיבָה, אֲשֶׁר-רָבוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-ה; וַיִּקָּדֵשׁ, בָּם.
And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron: 'Because ye believed not in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.'
These are the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and He was sanctified in them.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Hashem seems to more explicitly tell Moshe to hit the rock.
Shemot 17:1-7

וַיִּסְעוּ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּדְבַּר-סִין, לְמַסְעֵיהֶם--עַל-פִּי ה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בִּרְפִידִים, וְאֵין מַיִם, לִשְׁתֹּת הָעָם.
וַיָּרֶב הָעָם, עִם-מֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, תְּנוּ-לָנוּ מַיִם וְנִשְׁתֶּה; וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, מֹשֶׁה, מַה-תְּרִיבוּן עִמָּדִי, מַה-תְּנַסּוּן אֶת-ה.
וַיִּצְמָא שָׁם הָעָם לַמַּיִם, וַיָּלֶן הָעָם עַל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָּה זֶּה הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, לְהָמִית אֹתִי וְאֶת-בָּנַי וְאֶת-מִקְנַי, בַּצָּמָא.
וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל-ה לֵאמֹר, מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לָעָם הַזֶּה; עוֹד מְעַט, וּסְקָלֻנִי.
וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, עֲבֹר לִפְנֵי הָעָם, וְקַח אִתְּךָ, מִזִּקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וּמַטְּךָ, אֲשֶׁר הִכִּיתָ בּוֹ אֶת-הַיְאֹר--קַח בְּיָדְךָ, וְהָלָכְתָּ.
הִנְנִי עֹמֵד לְפָנֶיךָ שָּׁם עַל-הַצּוּר, בְּחֹרֵב, וְהִכִּיתָ בַצּוּר וְיָצְאוּ מִמֶּנּוּ מַיִם, וְשָׁתָה הָעָם; וַיַּעַשׂ כֵּן מֹשֶׁה, לְעֵינֵי זִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, מַסָּה וּמְרִיבָה: עַל-רִיב בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְעַל נַסֹּתָם אֶת-ה לֵאמֹר, הֲיֵשׁ ה בְּקִרְבֵּנוּ, אִם-אָיִן
And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and encamped in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink.
Wherefore the people strove with Moses, and said: 'Give us water that we may drink.' And Moses said unto them: 'Why strive ye with me? wherefore do ye try the LORD?'
And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said: 'Wherefore hast thou brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?'
And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying: 'What shall I do unto this people? they are almost ready to stone me.'
And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Pass on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go.
Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink.' And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
And the name of the place was called Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the children of Israel, and because they tried the LORD, saying: 'Is the LORD among us, or not?'

So, in another, parallel instance, he was told to hit the rock. Thus, while it is possible that hitting the rock was the sin (which demonstrated some lack of faith), it does not seem absolute.

Further, are we sure that the aforementioned instance is not the same as the one we just read. In both instances they need water for them and their cattle, Moshe does not know what to do, Hashem tells him what to do, he hits the rock, and water comes out. In BaMidbar these are called the waters of Meriva, and in Shemot the place is called Masa (testing) and Meriva.

I would suggest it is the same event.

But, Bamidbar has Moshe going to the Ohel Moed, which would be contructed after Matan Torah, since the Mishkan was contructed after Matan Torah. Meanwhile, in the Shemot story no reference to Ohel Moed is mentioned. Further, it is after the Song at the Sea and the beginning of the Manna. However, we could note that Ain Mukdam Umeuchar BaTorah, that the events described in the Torah are not necessarily organized in chronological order. After all, immediately following is Yisro, and some say that he came after hearing of the giving of the Torah, because Ain Mukdam Umeuchar BaTorah.

What then would be the sin for which Moshe and Aharon are punished. Perhaps for their words. They had opportunity to bring the Jews closer to Hashem - to say Hashem loves them, and will provide for them. Instead, they chastise them. (HeEmantem = cause others to believe).

Also, in their words they may be casting doubt that Hashem, or them will provide.

וַיַּקְהִלוּ מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, אֶת-הַקָּהָל--אֶל-פְּנֵי הַסָּלַע; וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, שִׁמְעוּ-נָא הַמֹּרִים--הֲמִן-הַסֶּלַע הַזֶּה, נוֹצִיא לָכֶם מָיִם.
"And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said unto them: 'Hear now, ye rebels; are we to bring you forth water out of this rock?'"

That is, what do you expect of us? To get water out of this rock? Instead of saying "Hashem said He will bring water from this rock."

Also, perhaps it is a failure in Moshe and Aharon's personal faith, not in hitting the rock or speaking to the people, but in the initial reaction to the people's complaint.

In Bamidbar 20:

וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן מִפְּנֵי הַקָּהָל, אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, וַיִּפְּלוּ, עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם; וַיֵּרָא כְבוֹד-ה, אֲלֵיהֶם
"And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tent of meeting, and fell upon their faces; and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them."

As the Midrash notes, they went from before the congregation, that is, they ran from before them. Then they fall on their faces. Perhaps they displayed their own lack of confidence that Hashem could provide this.

Just to note, in parshat Behaalotecha, by the quail, Moshe displays some lack of confidence that Hashem could provide all this:

Hashem says he will provide meat for the people...
Bamidbar 11:19-20

לֹא יוֹם אֶחָד תֹּאכְלוּן, וְלֹא יוֹמָיִם; וְלֹא חֲמִשָּׁה יָמִים, וְלֹא עֲשָׂרָה יָמִים, וְלֹא, עֶשְׂרִים יוֹם.
עַד חֹדֶשׁ יָמִים, עַד אֲשֶׁר-יֵצֵא מֵאַפְּכֶם, וְהָיָה לָכֶם, לְזָרָא: יַעַן, כִּי-מְאַסְתֶּם אֶת-יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּכֶם, וַתִּבְכּוּ לְפָנָיו לֵאמֹר, לָמָּה זֶּה יָצָאנוּ מִמִּצְרָיִם.
"Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
but a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you; because that ye have rejected the LORD who is among you, and have troubled Him with weeping, saying: Why, now, came we forth out of Egypt?'"

Moshe then expresses doubts:

וַיֹּאמֶר, מֹשֶׁה, שֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף רַגְלִי, הָעָם אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי בְּקִרְבּוֹ; וְאַתָּה אָמַרְתָּ, בָּשָׂר אֶתֵּן לָהֶם, וְאָכְלוּ, חֹדֶשׁ יָמִים.
הֲצֹאן וּבָקָר יִשָּׁחֵט לָהֶם, וּמָצָא לָהֶם; אִם אֶת-כָּל-דְּגֵי הַיָּם יֵאָסֵף לָהֶם, וּמָצָא לָהֶם.
"And Moses said: 'The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand men on foot; and yet Thou hast said: I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month!
If flocks and herds be slain for them, will they suffice them? or if all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, will they suffice them?'"

To which Hashem replies:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֲיַד יְהוָה תִּקְצָר; עַתָּה תִרְאֶה הֲיִקְרְךָ דְבָרִי, אִם-לֹא.
"And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? now shalt thou see whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not.'"

Thus we see elsewhere Moshe expressed doubts. Perhaps here as well Moshe was not confident that Hashem could provide sufficient water for all the people.

Update: Jon from Yeshiva blog suggests that the fault was that Moshe and Aharon took credit for the miracle, saying that *we* (rather than Hashem) will bring forth water from the rock.

There is actually a parallel to that in midrash, as regards the destruction of Sodom, where the angels were faulted for taking credit for destroying Sodom when it was really Hashem who would be doing the destroying.

Bereishit 19:13:

כִּי-מַשְׁחִתִים אֲנַחְנוּ, אֶת-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה: כִּי-גָדְלָה צַעֲקָתָם אֶת-פְּנֵי ה, וַיְשַׁלְּחֵנוּ ה לְשַׁחֲתָהּ.
for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxed great before the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.'

where we see later, in verses 24 and 25 that Hashem and not the angels destroyed it:

וַה, הִמְטִיר עַל-סְדֹם וְעַל-עֲמֹרָה--גָּפְרִית וָאֵשׁ: מֵאֵת ה, מִן-הַשָּׁמָיִם.
וַיַּהֲפֹךְ אֶת-הֶעָרִים הָאֵל, וְאֵת כָּל-הַכִּכָּר, וְאֵת כָּל-יֹשְׁבֵי הֶעָרִים, וְצֶמַח הָאֲדָמָה.
"Then the LORD caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
and He overthrow those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground."

Still, you would need to account for the "have not beleived in me" (לֹא-הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם) part of the verse; perhaps the answer would be as I suggested above, that it is the causative - did not cause others to beleive in Me.


Ari said...

1) R' Josh, do you not find it difficult to argue that the two stories of B'nai Yisrael thirsting for water were really one occurence?

The story of Maasa Umeriva in B'shalach 17:1 is recorded as having taken place by the Midbar Sin/Refidim portion of their travels. This seems to correspond to Bamidbar (Parshas Maasei) 33:14 - "And they camped in Refidim, and there was not there water for the nation to drink."

The story in Chukas 20:1 is said to take place in Midbar Tzin (not Sin)/Kadesh. This seems to correspond to Bamidbar (Parshas Maasei) 33:36/37 "and they camped in Midbar Tzin (not Sin), it is Kadesh." Furthermore, the next travels listed in Bamidbar 33 are camping out by Edom and Aaron's death, which also happen to be the stories in Chukas that are written following the Jews complaint of the water.

2) You opine that Moshe and Aharon falling on their faces and going to the Ohel Moed reflects a lack of confidence in Hashem's ability to provide.

Firstly,wouldn't falling on one's face in the Ohel Moed (the meeting place with G-d) indicate the opposite? - perhaps too much reliance on G-d to intervene, when they themselves should be leading.

Additionally, they do the same thing upon encountering Korach and the congregation attempting to rebel. They are already in the Ohel Moed when this occurs so they do not run there, but simply fall on their face where they are.

L'shitoscho, would you say that they committed some type of incorrect leadership and were therefore punished (and do you have a source to back this up?)

joshwaxman said...

The story in Chukas 20:1 is said to take place in Midbar Tzin (not Sin)/Kadesh
details, details...

seriously, though, i would simply associate this first pasuk with the close of the previous perek. thus, i would not say that these waters stopped in proximity or as a result of Miriam's death.

perhaps more later.

good shabbos,

joshwaxman said...

to add to the above...

the reason for the proximity would then not by chronological but topical, detailing the death / cause of death of Miryam, Moshe, and Aharon in the midbar.

falling on the face is ambiguous and may take different meanings depending on the context. at the least, it has certainly been darshened in several different ways, depending on context.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin