This week’s Torah portion, Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1), describes a most curious incident. When commanded to “speak to the rock” in order to produce water for the Israelites to drink, Moses instead hit the rock with his staff. Though this was exactly the recipe for producing water Moses had used previously (in Exodus 17:6), this time it is seen as an act of defiance. God took offense, claiming “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.”
It seems that a good defense lawyer would be able to make an argument that the punishment was far more severe than warranted by the crime — if in fact a crime even occurred. Was not Moses just doing what he was already commanded? Should the leader of the people be held to that much higher a standard than the average Israelite? Was Moses really offering an intentional slight to God through his action? Join us for our Shabbat morning Torah study at 9:30 AM on Temple’s Seattle campus to argue the case!
Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer