Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thoughts on Chukat

Various explanations of what Moshe and Aharon did wrong to get punished, along with the name of someone who said them. As collected by R' Yosef Tzvi Rimon.
  • Disobeyed by hitting the rock, not speaking to it (Rashi)
  • Got angry - when God was not angry. (Rambam) [Maharal: Anger, by definition, indicates a lack of faith in God]
  • Said "will we produce water" - we not God (Ramban)
  • Hit the rock twice, not once (Rabbenu Bachya)
  • Created doubt in God by asking "Can we produce water from the rock" - as if it were not guaranteed that God could do this (R' Moshe Hacohen Hasefaradi - quoted in Ibn Ezra)
  • They appeared to be fleeing "from before the people" - apparently since they chose physical action and not a public verbal declaration, they abdicated their leadership (HaIkarim)
  • Striking the rock to get water did not look like a miracle since the people had seen it done before (and well-known processes do not appear miraculous - for example the telephone) (Meshech Chochma)
  • As they approach Israel, the people should be introduced to hidden not obvious miracles, such as they will receive in Israel. Using the rod is an obvious miracle; speaking is a hidden miracle. (R' Hirsch)
  • As they approach Israel, the people should be introduced to praying for water (rain) before they receive it. Moshe neglects to introduce this. (Netziv)

It should be noted that these explanations are not mutually exclusive - Moshe could have erred in more than one way. In fact this seems very likely, given that no single reason seems serious enough to justify the severe punishment.

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