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Perashat Hukkat

Home > Rabbi's Weekly Message > Perashat Hukkat

Perashat Hukkat

Friday, June 26, 2015 Author: Rabbi Daniel Greenwald

In this week's perasha, we read about the sin of Moshe and Aharon at "Mei Merivah" - the "Waters of Strife".  Rather than speaking to the rock to provide water to quench the people's thirst, as he was commanded, Moshe Rabbenu struck it instead. As a result, it was decreed that both Moshe and Aharon would perish in the wilderness and not lead the people into the Promised Land.  

It is actually unclear as to what was exactly their sin. A number of commentators offer their opinions as to what exactly took place that led to such a severe punishment. Rashi explains that, as opposed to the command given earlier in perashat Beshalah to hit the rock at Rephidim, Moshe was supposed to speak to the rock here, as this would have demonstrated a much greater miracle. Since he did not do this, the opposite occurred and his actions were considered a desecration of G-d's name. Maimonides maintains that Moshe and Aharon were punished for displaying impatience and speaking to Beneh Yisrael out of anger. Thus they were judged strictly because such action was considered "conduct unbecoming" for those on a high spiritual level. Surprisingly, Nahmanides does not see anything wrong with their behavior and concludes that their sin was very slight and therefore, there must be an esoteric reason for their severe punishment that is beyond the simple understanding of the text.  

 Rabbenu Hannanel explains that their iniquity is to be found in the expression recorded here, "Shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?" (Bem. 20:10)  Since they used the word "nossi" - "we will bring forth", rather than "yossi Hashem" - "Hashem will bring forth," they created the impression that they themselves were performing the miracle rather than Boreh Olam. This slip of the tongue on their part led G-d to decree that since they desecrated His name, they were to be punished by not leading the people into Canaan.   Rabbi A. Brueckheimer explains that Rabbenu Hannanel's interpretation teaches us the importance of including Boreh Olam inour everyday speech. By simply using such expressions as, "Barukh Hashem", "Todah La-El", "Hamdala", "Be-Ezrat Hashem", "Im Yirssah Hashem", "Si Quiere El Dio"* etc, we have the ability to sanctify the name of G-d by demonstrating to others, as well as ourselves, that G-d is constantly involved in our lives. Doing so will lead to a greater recognition of Boreh Olam.  

 The rabbi adds the following thought.  At the closing of each prayer, we recite the "Alenu LeShabeah", in which we maintain that "It is our duty to praise the Master of all, and ascribe greatness to the Creator of the universe."  One may ask, how can we, such insignificant beings, possibly ascribe greatness to G-d?  After all, Boreh Olam is the ultimate greatness - and we can neither add nor subtract from Him!  The answer is, that each and every one of us can still create a greater recognition of His greatness by mentioning His praises and speaking of them at every opportunity possible.   

May we all fulfill this... with the help of G-d!

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