This month in the Jewish world, we contemplate Moses’ sin in our Torah. I think this situation resonates strongly with us as Jews living in the latter quarter of the 58th century.
What grievous sin committed by Moses caused God to prohibit his entrance into the Promised Land? Rebellion against authority is a pervasive theme in the Torah. Our ancestors complained, complained and complained constantly against all authority.
Perhaps they were making up for the 430 years of Egyptian slavery during which their opinions and feelings were of no consequence to their oppressors. True, the journey was seemingly never ending. Yet they were free people.
They had that miraculous manna to eat and water to drink; most of the time. According to the Midrash a wonderful well followed Miriam through the wilderness journey providing water for the Israelites. Water for over a million people in a barren wilderness; now that’s a miracle!
Yet, I fear, the Israelites took it for granted. It was just there; not a miracle but taking for granted; now that’s a sin!
God listens to the plight of the people offering a simple solution to Moses. Moses and Aaron should take their rod and before the eyes of all the people tell a rock to bring forth water.
Simple enough? Maybe and maybe not. Mentioning that rod caused the problem. Moses and Aaron assembled the people a Moses proclaimed: “Listen you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock!” Then Moses took the rod and struck the rock.
Water gushed from the rock and God was enraged … at Moses and Aaron for what one may consider a minute misdeed. After all, in anger, Moses shattered the initial tablets of the Commandments; tablets written by God. This act was not considered a sin.
Not following God’s simple and explicit directions prevented both Moses and Aaron from entering that Promised Land. I don’t wish to second-guess God but perhaps God’s severe punishment was not a punishment at all but an act of love.
Perhaps it was better for God to provide this line of reasoning rather than telling Moses and Aaron that their leadership, great as it was in Egypt and the Sinai, would potentially fail in Canaan. Joshua’s time was at hand; their time was about to end.
My concern is more that Moses and Aaron’s sin is the sin of the people: the sin of taking b’rachot (blessings) for granted. Miriam’s well was always there, until it disappeared. The manna? It appeared like clockwork; six mornings every week.
Our liturgy confronts this issue directly. Every morning in the shacharit service we thank God for those blessings occurring every day in our lives. I invite you to pick up a Siddur, read them, consider them and thank God they are given directly from God to you!
Above all, never take these blessings for granted!
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Candles should be lit for Shabbat on Fridays, June 26 at 8:52 p.m., July 3 at 8:52 p.m., July 10 at 8:50 p.m., July 17 at 8:46 p.m., July 24 at 8:42 p.m. and July 31 at 8:36 p.m.
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Editor’s note: Rabbi Stanley R. Miles, the rabbi of Temple Shalom (Reform), has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community.