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"And Moshe lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their cattle drank"
The Striking of the Boulder- Response Out Of Desperation or Fulfillment of God's Command?
Have we the right to investigate the feelings of Moshe our teacher at that moment? What was in the heart of 'the servant of God' - about whom God himself testified "in all my house, trusted is he?" What had distracted him from properly discharging his mission?
We might offer the following suggestion: Moshe took the staff from the tabernacle where it had stood for almost forty years. He took the staff in his hand as God had commanded, and, holding this symbol of his divine mission, he proceeded to gather the people. Here he stands once again - after forty years - with the staff of God in his hand. At the beginning of his mission forty years earlier, he needed the staff in order to publicly certify his appointment. Now he is pained by the thought that in all those forty years, despite all he had done for them, he had not succeeded in winning the people's trust. In the bitterness of this emotion, he forgot his mission, and instead of talking softly to the boulder, he spoke harsh words of admonition. In the storm of his feelings, he struck the boulder.
(From the commentary of Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch on Bemidbar 20:11)
You shall not abhor the Edomite for he is your brother.
In honor of my granddaughter Hila Miriam bat Yael and Imri Nitnas
born on 10 Adar 5772,
and my grandson Alon Yisrael ben Yael and Nati Leiser,
born on 14 Iyar 5772
The Torah tells us about number of events and encounters between
the children of
The Torah tells us at the beginning of Parashat Beshalach "God
led them not by the way of the land of the Plishtim although that was near; for
God said: Lest the people regret when they see war and they return to
The first encounter, except for when the Egyptians chased after
the children of Israel before the parting of the Red Sea in which there was a
need for divine intervention in order to release the nation from fear of Egypt
without war, was the encounter with Amalek. It is interesting to point out that this
encounter with Amalek took place in Refidim, after the nation complained about
the lack of water. Immediately afterwards the Torah tells us: "And Amalek
came and fought against
During the first two years of the journey through the wilderness,
The Torah does not tell us of any additional encounter between the children of
In Parashat Shlach, the spies manage to incite in the generation
of the wilderness fear of war against the residents of the land: "We are
not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we". On
account of their weakness, it was decreed that the children of
In our parasha, we witness again a hostile encounter between the
And Moshe sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: Thus
says your brother Israel: You know all the travail that has befallen us: how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a
long time; and the Egyptians dealt ill with us and our fathers; and when we
cried to the Lord, He heard our voice, and sent an angel, and brought us forth
out of Egypt; and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city at the edge of your border.
Let us pass, I pray you, through your land; we will not pass
through field or through vineyard, neither will we drink of the water of the
wells; we will go along the king's highway, we will not turn aside to the right
hand nor to the left, until we have passed your border. And
Moshe attempts to turn toward "his brother"
This parasha, in which Moshe requests passage through
After Aharon's death, the Canaanite King Ered starts a war with
The next war, too, following the refusal of Sichon the king of the
When Balak the Moabite king saw that all the local nations who
attempted to fight
After the difficult plague in which 24,000 people among
In contrast, Moshe is commanded not to wage war against Ammon and
Moav because their lands were given to the descendants of
Beyond the various stories that are told about the animosity that
prevailed between the children of
Concerning the Egyptians, who enslaved the people
As we know, Amalek becomes the ultimate eternal enemy about whom it is said: "Utterly erase the memory of Amalek" and also "It is an eternal war for the Lord against Amalek from generation to generation".
Also in relation to the Edomite, although he did not allow us to pass through his land, and he even came out to war against us, we are commanded to relate to him as we do towards the Egyptians: "You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother" (Devarim 23:8).
In contrast, concerning the Ammonites and Moabites it is said "An
Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord even to the
tenth generation shall none of them enter into the assembly of the Lord for
ever. Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when you
came forth out of
It is interesting to point out that seemingly Ammon and Moav
cannot enter the assembly of God although there is no such comprehensive
The Ramban (23:5) explains why Ammon and Moav are excluded from the "assembly of God", and these are his words:
It seems to me that the Torah distances these two brothers who
were recipients of Avraham's loving kindness, for he saved their father and
mother from destruction and captivity (Bereshit 14:16), and in his merit
God sent them out from the upheaval (Bereshit 18:29) and they were
obligated to treat Israel well, yet they treated them badly; The first hired
Balam ben Be'or against him- these were the Moabites, and the other did not
greet them with bread and water when they approached nearby, as it is stated (Devarim
"'You are today to pass over the border of Moav, even Ar, and when you
come over against the children of Ammon" and behold the verse warns them (Devarim
them not, nor contend with them" and they did not greet them at all, as
the verse would have written "as the children of Esav, the Moabites, and
Ammonites did to me", but it did not mention Ammon, who did not meet them.
Behold, in this respect Ammon acted more wickedly than the others, for the
children of Esav and the Moabites took bread and water out from their borders
when they knew that
Concerning the preferential relationship which the Egyptians and
Edomites merit, Rashi writes (Devarim 23:8-9): You shall not abhor an Edomite - completely,
although it would be fitting for you to abhor him for he came out to meet you
with sword. You shall not abhor an Egyptian- entirely, although they threw your
male children into the
Rashi, then, not in accordance with the Ramban who explains the
severity of the punishment for Ammon and Moav by saying that they were
obligated to treat us with loving kindness because they were saved in the merit
of our forefather Avraham, sees a greater danger in the nation that harms the
soul of the people that he finds in the nation who fights against us. It is not
clear how Ammon caused
The Netziv, in his commentary "Ha'emek Davar" does not hang the matter particularly upon the merit of the Edomite and the Egyptian, but rather he sees in this relationship an opportunity for cultivating elevated character traits. This is his wording:
For he is your brother": The Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to
On the practical, halakhic plane, our Sages neutralized the scope of these restrictions. For example: At first, they decreed that the restriction of Ammonites and Moabites joining the assembly of God should apply only to the males, and they expounded: Ammoni (male) and not Ammonit (female), Moavi (male) and not Moavit (female)" (Yevamot 69A). A more comprehensive neutralization of the restriction is cited in the statements of Rabbi Yehoshua (Brachot 28A): "But are Ammon and Moav sitting in their proper places? Sanherev the king of Ashur already came and mixed up all the nations". Meaning: We cannot correlate the nations from ancient days with latter day nations that have the same name.
How, then, shall we relate to the differences in our relations towards various nations described in the scriptures? I think that in all the attempts of the Torah commentators to explain the differences between the relations with various nations in the Torah, one should relate on the level of "seek and you shall be rewarded", since they raise various criteria that are likely to be useful to us when we come to determine, even in our day, our relations with nations who cause us harm in various forms. It could be that it is possible to learn from here that there is a difference between relations of animosity or hostility that follows from opposing interests or political quarrels even if they are accompanied by difficult violence and relationships of essential hatred that flow from racist ideology. Similarly, the Netziv teaches us that hatred is not a desirable quality of the soul and one must rise above feelings of vengefulness.
The way of our Sages also makes it possible for us to believe in the possibility of people and nations to change and not to drag animosity and hostility on for many generations, but rather to remember that "the descendants of Haman taught Torah in Bnei Brak, and the descendants of Sisra taught children in Jerusalem, and the descendants of Sanheriv gave public Torah expositions" (Gittin 57B), to rise above and forgive.
Pinchas Leiser, Editor of Shabbat Shalom, Psychologist
[Translator's note: To understand this passage from Sifri, it is helpful to compare two verses in Hebrew: Num.19:14 Zot hatorah adam ki yamut baohel... and 2 Sam 7:19 vzot torat ha-adam...]
"You shall die on the mountain you are about to ascend" (Deut.32:50) Moses said: Master
of the Universe, why do I have to die an untimely death? They will say Moses
took us out of
(Sifri, Haazinu, section 339)
Can a serpent kill - can a serpent revive?
Hezkiyahu, King of Judea, did four things, and his thought concurred with of the Omnipresent: He hid a book of remedies, and his thought concurred with of the Omnipresent; he crushed the copper serpent, and his thought concurred with of the Omnipresent…
(Avot D'Rabbi Natan, 2:4)
The Holy One,
Blessed Be He, said to him: "Make yourself a burning-snake… So Moshe
made a viper of copper… (Bemidbar 21:8-9) And thus stood the
copper serpent; whenever a person was bitten, he would look upon it and be healed.
Until Hezkiyahu reigned and saw
(Midrash Aggadat Bereishit, Chap 11)
...And this was the mistake that Jeftah made with his daughter. For he thought that just as a cheirem ["doomed" object] of the chief of Israel is valid and takes effect to put [certain] people to death, and [also] anyone who transgresses it is liable to the death penalty, so [Jeftah thought] that if he uttered a vow at a time of war, to make an offering of a certain person or persons, the vow is valid; but he did not know that a cheirem declared by the king and Sanhedrin is valid [only] regarding the destruction of rebels, or against one who transgresses their decrees and ordinances. But that a vow should take effect to make a burnt-offering of something not appropriate for God [as Jeftah thought] - Heaven forbid! Therefore the Rabbis have said in Bereshit Rabbah that [Jeftah] was not even obliged to pay the price of [an amount equivalent to his daughter's] value to the Temple treasury [as his vow was totally invalid], and he was punished for her [innocent] blood!
(Ramban on Lev.27:29, tr.Chavel)
Jeftah is not to be regarded as a national hero. His deed is not to be admired as one of self-sacrifice and greatness prompted by patriotic feeling. It was a cruel and unwarranted deed. We may rely on our Sages who saw him as an ignorant and unlettered person, a boor, empty, and rash. Enthusiasm by itself is no guarantee of the desirability of a cause. Enthusiasm that is not backed by conscience and the self-discipline of Torah is liable to bring disaster. 'What caused Jeftah to take the life of his own daughter? His failure to read and understand Torah.'
(From Studies in Bamidbar by Nehama Leibowitz, tr. A. Newman, p.279)
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