Sign up to TorahFax

Tuesday, Tammuz 8, 5780 / June 30, 2020


As mentioned previously, since Shavuot, the Torah readings on Shabbat, differ between Israel and the Diaspora. Israel is one Parsha ahead of us. However, this Shabbat we in the Diaspora will catch up to Israel. This is accomplished by Israel reading one Parsha, Balak, while we will combine the two Parshiot, Chukat and Balak together. After this Shabbat we will both be reading the same readings.


Parshat Chukat begins with the mitzvah of "Para Adumah" (Red Heifer) whose ashes mixed with spring water were sprinkled upon one who became spiritually unclean through contact with the dead.  This mitzvah falls in the category of "Chukah" - mitzvot which have no logical reason.  Although some parts of the mitzvah may be explained, in general it is a mitzvah with no rational explanation.  We observe this category of mitzvot with pure faith, because G-d commanded us to do them. 


In Parshat Chukat we read about the passing of Moshe's sister, Miriam. When Miriam passed away, the special well which accompanied the people in the desert, stopped flowing. When the people realized that they had no water, they complained to Moshe and Aaron, "Why did you bring us into this wilderness to die here? Why did you bring us out of Egypt to this evil place… there is no water..."


G-d then told Moshe, "Take your rod and assemble the congregation; you and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes and it will give forth its water."  Moshe gathered the people and addressed them, beginning with these words, "Hear now you rebels ...."  Moshe then "lifted up his hand and hit the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly and the congregation drank along with their cattle." 


Moshe and Aaron didn't speak to the rock as commanded, but hit it instead.  G-d said, "Because you didn't believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." Thus, G-d decreed that Moshe and Aaron would not enter the Promised Land.


Q.  How did Moshe make the mistake of hitting the rock when G-d told him to speak to it?


A.  As a result of Moshe's becoming angry at the people, he lost self control and forgot G-d's instructions. According to our sages,  this teaches us the tremendous destructiveness of anger.  According to our sages, there were three occasions in which Moshe became angry and each time it caused him to make a mistake. Anger brings negative consequences.


Q.  Why was Moshe punished so severely for hitting the rock?


A.  There are two ways of serving G-d; out of love or out of the fear of G-d's punishment. One should serve G-d out of love rather than fear. By hitting the rock, Moshe emphasized the notion of obeying

G-d’s commandments for fear of punishment, relating to the Jewish people the wrong message.