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  • Writer's pictureGabbai

Parsha Lights – Chukat

This coming Shabbat we will read the well known passage in the Torah about the striking of the rock. The Israelites were in the wilderness and they had nothing to drink. Naturally, they complained to Moses, their leader, who was told by the Lord to speak to the rock and it will bring forth its waters. As we know, Moses struck the rock rather than speaking to it. As a result Moses lost the privilege of entering the promised land. He was doomed to die in the wilderness.

The Midrash notes that the astrologers of Egypt foresaw in the stars that the downfall of the Jewish leader would be through water. Because of this the Pharaoh decreed that all male children born to the Jewish people should be thrown into the river. Knowing that water is the Achilles heel of the Jewish leader, they sought to preempt his rise by an early demise.

The astrologers were correct in their reading of the stars. The water at the rock was the trigger that shattered Moses’ dream of entering the Promised Land. But why water? What was it about the nature of Moses that rejected and was opposed to water?

The Maharal of Prague (late 16th century) explains that the world is made up of two elements – matter and form. Moses was a man who was principled. He was unbending and uncompromising in all things important; he was the epitome of form. Water, on the other hand, is the opposite in that it has no intrinsic form. It assumes the form of any container it is put in, it seeks the path of least resistance. Water is pure matter and conforms to any shape.

This is what the astrologers saw alluded to in the stars. They wrongly assumed that Moses could be drowned in the water as an infant and that would be the end of him. In reality, Moses simply was opposite in nature to the character of water.

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