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ך את הסלע במטהו פעמים ויצאו מים רבים ותשת העדה ובעירם.

And he struck the rock with his staff twice; abundant water came forth, and the assembly and their animals drank. (20:11)

Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to the rock. He also told him to fetch his staff – which he had earlier used to strike the rock that had previously provided the nation with water. Who knows? Clearly, whatever infraction was involved in Moshe’s striking the rock is beyond us. The mere fact that so many early commentators weigh in concerning the sin is a clear indication that the sin was esoteric and of the minutest form of misconduct. In other words, when one must search, dispute and delve into the action that represents the sin, it demonstrates that it…

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ויאמר להם שמעו נא המרים המן הזה נוציא לכם מים.

“Listen now, O rebels, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?” (20:10)

Miriam HaNeviah passed away. The water that had sustained Klal Yisrael for forty years was in her merit. Following her death, the water stopped flowing. When people have no water to drink, they react. They complained to Moshe Rabbeinu that they were thirsty. Moshe struck the rock, and it provided the necessary water. Hashem told Moshe, “Since you have not trusted in Me to sanctify Me before the People… you will not lead them in the Land.” Imagine, the quintessential leader of Klal Yisrael made one wrong decision, which is beyond our ability to comprehend, and he received a most…

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ותמת שם מרים ותקבר שם ולא היה מים לעדה

Miriam died there, and she was buried there. There was no water for the assembly. (20:1,2)

Chazal (Taanis 9a) explain the juxtaposition of Klal Yisrael’s lack of water upon Miriam’s death with the miraculous well that accompanied them throughout their forty-year journey. This well, duly dubbed be’eirah shel Miriam, Miriam’s well, gave water in the zechus, merit, of Miriam HaNeviah. Thus, when she died, the well dried up. The Zohar HaKadosh (Emor 103B) attributes the miracle of Miriam’s well to her standing at the banks of the Nile River to ensure the safety of her infant brother, Moshe (Rabbeinu), who had been placed in a reed basket, hidden from the Egyptian soldiers who were bent on…

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ותמות שם מרים ותקבר שם ולא היה מים לעדה

Miriam died there, and she was buried there. There was no water for the assembly. (20:1,2)

A well-known quotation comes to mind: “Dead people receive more flowers than living ones, because regret is much stronger than gratitude.” Sadly, after someone takes leave of his earthly abode, some people tend to appreciate them more than when he/she was present in this world. Some people do not know how to appreciate others when they are here. Veritably, both emotions demand that a person process cognitively, not emotionally, and with sincerity. To pay gratitude one must appreciate how he has benefitted from the person. To be regretful, one must confront his own errors.  Learning to appreciate is more difficult,…

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זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל

This is the teaching regarding a man who would die in a tent (19:14)

It takes only one person to make a change, to alter one’s plans, goals, trajectory towards success. Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen stood at the helm of the Jewish nation. Hashem had selected them to lead Klal Yisrael. One cannot be more legitimate and more authentic than being the personal choice of Hashem. Yet, one person – Korach – disrupted the pristine functioning of this leadership. It takes one student to disrupt a class. One rotten apple in a group can set the tone that undermines the group’s functioning. One malcontent in a shul can infect those willing to listen…

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מה טבו אהליך יעקב

How goodly are your tents, Yaakov. (24:5)

What impressed Bilaam about the Jewish tents? Bilaam saw that the entrances to one another precluded intrusions on the privacy of other families. Furthermore, tents refer to the batei medrash, study halls. (According to Rashi, it refers to the Mishkan and Batei Mikdash when they were extant). At first glance, tznius, privacy and modesty, and study halls do not seem to coincide, unless the Torah is suggesting to us that the study hall – or Torah study of those who occupy the bais hamedrash, who devote themselves wholly to studying Hashem’s Torah – should reflect tznius, privacy and modesty, in…

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וישלח מלאכים אל בלעם בן בעור

He sent agents to Bilaam ben Beor. (22:5)

Is it possible that, concerning all outward appearances, one not only manifests himself as righteous, but he even receives the fringe benefits and special treatment accorded to a tzaddik; yet, he remains throughout a despicable rasha, wicked person, of the lowest order? Yes! Bilaam showed us that it can be done. Bilaam was Hashem’s “gift” to the pagan/gentile world, so that they could not assert that they had no worthy spiritual leadership. Bilaam was on a lofty spiritual plane, a prophet of the highest order. He was the gentile world’s Moshe. So what happened? He refused to purge himself of…

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וישלח ד' בעם את הנחשים השרפים ... ויאמרו חטאנו ... והיה הנשוך וראה אתו וחי

Then Hashem let the poisonous snakes loose against the people … They said, “We have sinned” … that everyone who is bitten when he looks upon it he shall live. (21:6,7,8)

It was not the first time; once again, the people did not receive what they perceived they needed. Their first reaction was to complain, “This is no good; that is no good.” Immediately, they directed their discontent against Hashem. They did not doubt the authenticity of Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership; they had issues with Hashem’s guidance. They would never reach the Promised Land if they were to continue along this path in the wretched wilderness. Veritably, they had nourishment from the manna, but what about some real food and drink? Furthermore, obtaining manna was effortless, almost monotonous. They wanted some excitement…

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ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה

And they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish. (19:2)

The mitzvah of Parah Adumah, Red Cow, which is used to purify one who is tamei meis, spiritually defiled by coming in contact with a dead body, has become known as the paradigmatic mitzvah whose reason is beyond human cognition. Actually, this is true with regard to all mitzvos. We have no idea of the reason for any one of the 613 mitzvos; it is just that some are easier to relate to, because they are common-sensical. The laws of Parah Adumah are replete with anomalies. The most difficult to accept is the fact that the Kohen who carries out…

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זאת חקת התורה

This is the decree of the Torah. (19:2)

Rashi explains the concept of chok, a mitzvah whose Divine rationale eludes us. While Hashem certainly has a reason for every one of the Taryag, 613 mitzvos, the reason behind every mitzvah is beyond our grasp. Understandably, one might say that not all mitzvos are beyond our ken. Ostensibly, specific mitzvos – such as Kibbud Av v’Eim, Honoring father and mother – are rationally based. The Rambam (Shemoneh Perakim) distinguishes between mitzvos sichlios, rational mitzvos (which supposedly anyone who possesses a modicum of intelligence can understand on his own), and mitzvos shlmiyos, mitzvos we accept and perform purely because we…

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