D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Anger:  Enemy of the G-dly Soul

“G-d spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Take the staff and gather together the people, you and Ahron your brother, and speak to the rock before [the nation’s] eyes that it shall give its waters’ (Numbers Ch.20 v.7-8). “Moshe and Ahron gathered the congregation before the rock and he said to them, ‘Listen now you rebels, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?’ Then Moshe raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice” (Numbers Ch.20 v.10-11).

This is a very strange sequence of events. That Moshe, who is considered to be the greatest prophet the Jewish people have ever had, a man who spoke to G-d face to face, would blatantly disobey a commandment from G-d, is extremely difficult to understand.

G-d then punishes Moshe (and Ahron) saying: “Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation into Israel” (ibid. v.12).

Many commentators attempt to explain exactly what the sin of Moshe (and Ahron) was.

Maimonides gives a particularly compelling explanation.  

Maimonides explains the sin of Moshe was that he got angry and called the Children of Israel rebels. This gave the impression that G-d was angry with the Jewish people for their complaints about their lack of water, which in fact was not the case. In his anger, instead of talking to the rock, thus enhancing the opportunity to sanctify G-d’s name, Moshe hit the rock. (On a previous occasion in Refidim, G-d told Moshe to hit the rock. At that point in the development of the Jewish people, they were only on a level to see water come from the rock after it had been physically hit. Here, however, the Jewish people were on a higher spiritual level; thus they were ready to see water flow from the rock after Moshe merely spoke to it.)

It was for this brief lapse into anger that Moshe is punished. (A person is judged at his own level of spiritual development. Thus a great man such as Moshe was judged very harshly.)

Anger is one of the worst of all character traits. The Talmud says that if someone breaks something in anger, it is as if he has worshipped a strange god. Why? The opposite trait of anger is intellect. Someone who loses his temper to such a degree that he would risk breaking something is no longer under the dominion of his intellect, which is a manifestation of his G-dly soul. Thus he is serving a strange god. The lesson which we can apply to ourselves from this episode is to learn to nurture our G-dly soul, i.e. to be in complete control of our mental facilities.

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