The Law by Elhanan ben-Avraham
We cannot break the inviolable laws of the Creator with impunity.
“Observe and obey these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of YHVH your God.”
It is also true of the Laws of the Land, and the laws of nature. Leaping from a plane without a parachute can only end in disaster. When we mere mortals make Laws of the Land that stand in opposition to the Creator’s, it is not with impunity, remembering that our freedoms to choose come from our Creator, according to those wise men who coined the Declaration of Independence for America:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.
Our rights and freedoms are not from Congress or the Knesset, but from our Creator. US President Abraham Lincoln recognized that fact as the American Civil War raged, creating some 600,000 casualties in its four years of destruction- 1861-1865. He said, “This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves and, under a just God, can not long retain it,” and, “He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came…Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’” While several decades before, a dedicated Christian in the English parliament, William Wilberforce, ended slavery in the British empire without firing a shot.
We can only hope and pray that these sane recent US Supreme Court decisions regarding the slaying of babies in the womb and religious liberty will slow the stampede to depravity and self immolation. I am hopeful, though considering the momentum of events, and the sheer enthusiasm for rebellion against God worldwide, seriously doubt it can now be fully reversed and stay the wrath of God, short of a Miracle of Mercy.
Did God Really Punish Moses For Hitting the Rock?
Jul 6, 2022
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן יַעַן לֹא־הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָכֵן לֹא תָבִיאוּ אֶת־הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתִּי לָהֶם׃
But Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of B'nei Yisrael, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.”
A group of thirsty people complain bitterly to Moses, “Why did you bring us to the desert, to die??” God tells Moses and Aaron:
You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts. (Numbers 20:8)
Moses, however, loses his patience with the complainers, and instead of speaking to the rock, he hits it. Water gushes out of the rock and the people drink. But Moses gets a terrible punishment for not following God’s instructions. God tells Moses that he will not be leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. At that moment, Moses’ dream of entering the Land of Israel goes up in smoke.
How can it be that Moses, God’s faithful servant and the most humble man who ever lived, is punished so terribly for such a small mistake?
Forty years earlier, under similar circumstances, God told Moses to hit the rock. But now, for hitting the rock instead of speaking to the rock, Moses is punished? Isn’t that unfair?
Grappling with this painful question, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of British-ruled Palestine, makes an important distinction. He notes that the generation of Jews who left Egypt and spent decades in the desert were very different from their children, the generation that entered the Land of Israel.
The generation that left Egypt – the people who experienced the miracles of the Exodus, the splitting of the sea, and the daily miracle of manna in the desert – they were the generation of miracles. Every day, they clearly saw the hand of God.
But the next generation, which entered the land of Israel, was very different. They lived as farmers and tradesmen in the Land, living mostly normal lives. They ploughed, sowed, reaped and fought wars; God did not miraculously provide food or wage wars on their behalf. They were the generation without miracles.
Rabbi Kook compares the development of these two generations to the development of a child. A 6-month old baby learning to eat solid foods for the first time needs her parents to feed her – to literally bring the spoonful of mush to the baby’s mouth. But a 10-year old? If you’re still feeding your 10-year old child like this, you’re not doing her any favours!
Children at different ages of development require different things from their parents. As children mature, our expectations of them change; we expect more from our teenagers than our toddlers. Little by little, we help our children mature, grow and become more independent.
Rabbi Kook explains that the same was true in the development of the Jewish people. When they left Egypt, they were a child-like people: I fell in love with Yisrael when he was still a child; And I have called [him] My son ever since Egypt (Hosea 11:1).
God loved the people, without question, but they were spiritually immature. They believed in God when they saw God openly – “And the people saw God, and they believed in Him.” But the moment they couldn’t see God clearly, the moment they were faced with a difficult situation, they threw a fit! “It would have been better if we stayed in Egypt!” Like children, they behaved well when they got what they wanted – a steady diet of miracles! And so this is exactly what the generation that left Egypt received – a constant flow of miracles! God’s cloud of glory, constantly over the camp; food from the heavens, etc.
But the next generation was different. Spiritually, religiously and ethically, they were more mature than their parent’s generation; they were able to perceive God’s presence in nature, in “ordinary” life. They no longer needed miracles to sustain their belief!
This brings us back to our original question: Why did God punish Moses so harshly for hitting the rock?
Some Bible commentators say that this “sin” of hitting the rock was really a pretext, an excuse for replacing Moses as the leader of the Jewish people. At first glance, this seems shocking; why would God want to replace the greatest leader the people had ever known?
Moses was a man of miracles. Think of the incredible number of miracles that God did through Moses’ hands! He hit the rock, and water spurted out! This miracle-making made Moses the perfect leader for the generation that left Egypt; the ideal leader of the Jewish people in their infancy stage.
But for the next generation, the more spiritually mature people who entered the land of Israel, Moses was too great! Looking at Moses, you automatically sensed God’s presence; his very existence, the fact that a human being could be so close to and in constant communication with God – this was itself a miracle!
But this wasn’t what the people needed in their next stage of spiritual development – they needed to connect with God through the day to day subtle miracles of ordinary life. And this is why God “punished” Moses and did not allow him to lead the nation into the land of Israel. Moses was simply too holy, too awesome and miraculous, to lead the Children of Israel during their next stage of their development in the Land.
The Jewish people are going through a similar process of development in our own time. During the years after World War II, God miraculously brought the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel from all over the world. He then performed incredible miracles during the wars of 1948 and 1967, when the State of Israel defeated the many enemy nations who tried to destroy it.
But though the redemption process began with open miracles, the people of Israel are meant to progress and grow to a point where they do not require open miracles to believe in God. The people of Israel must build a holy society and reveal God’s presence in the mundane moments of everyday life. May God’s people succeed in doing so!