One Thing Leads to Another!
“But Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Jewish people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” (Bamidbar 20:12)
It was an awesome miracle! Every day in the desert, millions of people and their animals were provided with plentiful water. It miraculously flowed from a rock, known as the Well of Miriam. When Miriam died, the Rock hid itself and the Jewish People no longer had a source of water. They complained to Moshe. Hashem told Moshe to find the Rock and speak to it, and it would, once again, provide water. Moshe ended up hitting the rock and water burst forth. “But Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Jewish people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” (Bamidbar 20:12) Clearly, Moshe and Aharon committed some sin. Their punishment was that they would die before the Jews entered the Land of Israel. They would not be privileged to enter the Land of Israel.
Numerous commentaries attempt to explain Moshe and Aharon’s “sin”. Some say it had to do with Moshe hitting the Rock instead of speaking to it. Others say, it had to do with the way Moshe spoke to the Jewish People. Abarbanel quotes 10 different explanations, asks questions on all of them, and gives his own interpretation.
It says in Tehillim (62:13), “…and faithfulness is Yours, Hashem, to reward each man according to his deeds”. Hashem always punishes “measure for measure”, i.e. the punishment is similar, to the sin. The Metzudas Dovid explains, when a person contemplates his punishment, he will be able to figure out what his sin was and what he would need to do to improve himself. The Abarbanel asked, “What was the connection of Moshe and Aharon’s “sin” to their punishment?” Why were they punished by being barred from Eretz Yisroel?
Furthermore, the Abarbanel asked, “What did Aharon do?” Moshe hit the Rock and spoke to the Jewish People. Aharon just stood there. Why was Aharon also punished?
In Sefer Devarim (1:37) before Moshe died, he mentioned some of the past sins that the Jewish People had done. He spoke about the sin of the spies and said, “Hashem was also angry at me, because of you….” Therefore, I, too, will not be privileged to enter the Land of Israel. It seems that Moshe forfeited the right to enter the Land of Israel because of the sin of the spies and not because of what happened with the Rock?
The Abarbanel asks numerous other questions. His explanation is that Moshe and Aharon were not punished because of what occurred with the Rock. Rather, Aharon was punished because of the sin of the Golden Calf. Aharon formed the calf to delay the people from sinning, while he awaited Moshe’s return from Har Sinai. Aharon had good intentions. However, his actions led to catastrophic results. It led to some Jews sinning, causing their deaths immediately by plague or sword. It also resulted in the decree that the Jews would die in the desert and would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Since this resulted from Aharon’s actions, it would not have been proper for Aharon to enter the Land of Israel while the rest of the Jews were forbidden. (Shmos 32:1-7). This was clearly a punishment, “measure for measure”.
Similarly, Moshe was punished because of his actions with the spies that he had sent to the Land of Israel. The People had asked to send spies. Their only concern was to discover the best route to take and which cities to capture first (Devorim 1:22 and Rashi). Hashem had just said to scout out the land. Moshe added additional questions for the spies. Moshe had asked that they find out the strength of the people and the fortification of the cities. Moshe purposely and with good intentions, added these questions. When the Jewish People would find out that how powerful these people were, that there were giants, and that the cities were exceedingly fortified, they would further appreciate Hashem’s kindness in enabling them to conquer the land. However, these additional questions resulted in the spies terrifying report. As a result of that, the Jews felt they were powerless, and that Hashem was incapable of conquering these nations. This resulted in Hashem’ decree that they would die in the desert and not enter the Land. Moshe’s unintentional actions indirectly caused this decree. Therefore, it would not have been appropriate for Moshe to enter the Land while the rest of the People were forbidden to.
To show respect for Moshe and Aharon, Hashem concealed these larger sins with the smaller sin by the Rock, even though Aharon did not sin at all by the Rock. The sin by the Rock wasn’t the reason for their punishment. Rather, Hashem used it as a means to punish them for their previous actions, without embarrassing them.
The Abarbanel teaches us a powerful thought! One is held accountable for the results of his actions. If noble intentions result in negative actions by others, one is still held accountable for them. We also see a level of fairness by Hashem. If one caused a negative action which resulted in another person being punished, one should not derive benefit from that which another lost, because of that action.
On the positive side, if one’s intentions result in positive actions, one is rewarded for them! Imagine if one taught Torah to a Jew who had little, or no Torah knowledge and that person became a very learned and righteous individual. Would it be fair if the student went to Olam Habba while the teacher did not?
We must be very careful and think through the possible repercussions of our actions!
We may be punished for negative repercussions and we will be rewarded for positive ones!