Study Session for Sisterhood Shabbat at Etz Chaim/Monroe Township Jewish Center, Parashah Chukkat
The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation and they joined against Moses and Aaron.
AND THERE WAS NO WATER FOR THE CONGREGATION - Since this statement follows immediately after the mention of Miriam’s death, we may learn from it that during the entire forty years they had the “well” through Miriam’s merit.
--Rashi’s commentary on Numbers 20:2
As soon as the well ceased flowing, Israel gathered around Moshe and Aharon, who were weeping for Miriam. G’d told them: “Because you are mourning, shall all Israel die of thirst? Stand up, take your staff, and give water to Israel.”
Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Out came copious water, and the community and their beasts drank. But G’d said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them”.
BECAUSE YOU DID NOT TRUST ME — Scripture discloses the fact that but for this sin alone, they would have entered the land of Canaan, in order that people should not say of them, “Even as the sin of the generation of the Wilderness (a term used of those who left Egypt) on whom it was decreed that they should not enter the Land was the sin of Moses and Aaron” (cf. ). But was not the doubting question (cf. ), “shall the sheep and oxen be slaughtered for them?” a more grievous lack of faith in God than this? But because that had been said in private (no Israelites being present and therefore it could have no evil influence upon them), Scripture (God) spared him (and did not make his lack of faith public by pronouncing punishment for it), but here, where all Israel were standing by, Scripture does not spare him because of the Hallowing of the Divine Name.
--Rashi’s commentary on Numbers 20:12
The sin consisted in their saying: “Are we to extract water for you from this rock?” They should have said instead: “G’d will extract water for you.”. In Moses had been careful to phrase the announcement of the forthcoming phenomenon of manna by attributing it to coming directly from G’d. Similarly, when predicting any of the other miracles which had been announce beforehand, Moses had carefully attributed the miracle to G’d. By failing to do so this time they left the way open for some of the people to think that the water when it would gush forth would be the result of Moses’ and Aaron’s combined knowledge.
--Rabbi Chananel on Numbers 20:12
His whole sin lay in erring on the side of anger…when he used the expression, ‘listen, you rebels!’ The Holy One, blessed be, censured him for this, that a man of his stature should give vent to anger in front of the whole community of Israel.
–Moses Maimonides, Shmona P’rakim
Judaism teaches that the greater the man, the stricter the standard by which he is judged, and, if he does not measure up, the greater will be his judgment and punishment.
–Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch