This week’s parashah opens up speaking about the Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer, a cow with completely red hair (it can only have a couple hairs of another color or it doesn’t count!). The ashes of the Parah Adumah are used to purify people’s spiritual impurity.
Next we hear about the death of Miriam HaNeviah, Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen‘s older sister. With Miriam dies the Be’er Miriam, the rock from which flowed water for the entire Jewish nation in the desert. The people complain about this lack of water and Moshe Rabbeinu is commanded to bring forth water from a rock once again. Through some tiny, marginal error, there is a mistake in this process of bringing out water from the rock and instead of speaking to it, Moshe Rabbeinu hits it. Water does flow once more but Moshe Rabbeinu and his co-leader, his brother Aharon HaKohen, are punished in that they will not be able to enter the Land of Israel.
Moshe Rabbeinu sends messengers to request passage through the land of Edom, and of course Edom does not allow the nation to cross through. Instead, the Jews travel around Edom and arrive at Hor HaHar. This is where Aharon HaKohen subsequently passes away. The Jews mourn Aharon’s death for thirty days.
Amaleik, the Jews’ worst enemy, sees that the clouds of glory protecting the nation in Aharon HaKohen‘s merit are no longer present. Assuming that the nation is now vulnerable to the elements, Amaleik attacks. Amaleik is not able to harm the nation and they continue traveling. The Jews begin to tire of traveling in the desert and complain to Moshe Rabbeinu. A plague begins where serpents come out and begin killing the people. Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu to create a copper serpent and hold it up on a stick. Whoever gazes at the copper serpent is saved from the plague and the people stop dying.
The Jews’ travels continue until they come to the land of the Emori nation. They request passage and Sichon the king says no. A war follows and the Jews conquer the Emori land. The same thing happens next with the land of Bashan and their king Og until the Jews conquer his land as well!
And we’ll leave the Jews in the middle of conquering land until next week!
Although nobody can attest to understand the “sin” of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen with the rock, there are many lessons we can learn from the story. The rock was supposed to be spoken to. When it was hit, although the desired result did come about, it was not in the preferable way.
When we speak to other people, it can be tempting to use harsh words, criticize, or we may even be tempted to “knock” some sense into their heads sometimes. However, as we learn from the story of the rock in the desert, speaking softly and patiently is always the better option.
This Shabbos, try to speak quietly instead of raising your voice. Let me know what a difference it makes!
Listening to “Avi Avi”, my newest obsession song! It’s on the album Am Yisroel by Shira Chadasha Boys Choir. This song is about HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel who passed away a couple years ago while I was in seminary. I was actually at his funeral. Anyway, it’s an amazing song! :)