July 11, 2024
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In Parshat Chukat, Moshe and Aaron were informed that they would no longer have the privilege of leading Bnei Yisrael into Israel. Hashem had instructed Moshe to speak to the rock, but Moshe struck the rock twice to get the water for Bnei Yisrael. Despite getting water from the rock, since Moshe hit it, instead of speaking to it, this became known as מֵ֣י מְרִיבָ֔ה (the waters of dispute), and Moshe and Aaron were no longer allowed into Israel.

In my eyes, this is more than just a story of why Moshe and Aaron can’t go into Israel; it is a message for us today. Water represents the Torah and the necessities we need to live, and the rock represents Hashem as something strong and protective. When a person can speak kindly about God’s will or words of Torah, the result will be that people can have more water, Torah and sustenance in their lives. They will receive more goodness and be involved in fewer disputes. However, when we try forcing, hitting or pushing someone, the Torah and sustenance we have may become מֵ֣י מְרִיבָ֔ה (the waters of disagreement). Especially nowadays, to bring the Torah and Godliness into the world, it needs to come from a place of love and kindness.

This brings to mind a story that I heard after October 7. There once was a Jewish man in Israel who detested religious people so much, believing them to feel superior to him. He was so disgusted by them that he put a bumper sticker on his car that said, “Run over the religious people.” One day, this man got stranded on the side of the road after running out of gas. After a short while, only one person, a religious Jew, stopped to see what was wrong. After hearing that he had no gas, the religious Jew told the man that he would go to the gas station and bring him gas. Not only did the man get him gas, but he refused to take the money and said it was a mitzvah. This act of kindness was the first step for this nonreligious man to see goodness in religiosity. Then the two men exchanged phone numbers, and on Fridays, the religious Jew would call the other man to wish him Shabbat Shalom and tell him a bit about the parsha. To keep a long story short, he extended an invitation to the nonreligious guy and his family to spend the final days of Sukkot with him. As a result, the nonreligious family’s life was spared from the tragedy of October 7, and they began to observe mitzvot. This pious man’s generosity and words made this possible. Instead of pressuring him, he slowly brought him back through the love of the Torah.

May all of our acts of kindness and words of Torah bring those around us closer to Hashem. May we follow Hashem’s ways and not create a place of disagreement.


Shira Sedek is a passionate educator currently working toward a master’s degree at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.

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