Two Strikes And They're Out?
Though we may challenge the severity of Moses' and Aaron's punishment for striking the rock, rather than speaking to it, we affirm sacredness by trying to comprehend it.
The following article is reprinted with permission from the Union for Reform Judaism.
- The laws of the red heifer to purify a person who has had contact with a corpse are given. (Numbers 19:1–22)
- The people arrive at the wilderness of Zin. Miriam dies and is buried there. (Numbers 20:1)
- The people complain that they have no water. Moses strikes the rock to get water for them. God tells Moses and Aaron they will not enter the Land of Israel. (Numbers 20:2–13)
- The king of Edom refuses to let the Children of Israel pass through his land. After Aaron’s priestly garments are given to his son Eleazer, Aaron dies. (Numbers 20:14–29)
- After they are punished for complaining about the lack of bread and water, the Israelites repent and are victorious in battle against the Amorites and the people of Bashan, whose lands they capture. (Numbers 21:4–22:1)
Miriam died there and was buried there. The community was without water, and they joined against Moses and Aaron…
Moses and Aaron came away from the congregation to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and fell on their faces. The Presence of Adonai appeared to them, and Adonai spoke to Moses, saying, “You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts.”
Moses took the rod from before Adonai, as God had commanded him. 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 Adonai 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.” Those are the Waters of Meribah--meaning that the Israelites quarreled with Adonai--through which God affirmed His sanctity. (Numbers 20:1–13)
Does the punishment meted out to Moses and Aaron fit the "crime?" If Moses and Aaron had sinned so egregiously, why did God nonetheless provide the people with ample water?