[b-hebrew] who called Israel rebellious ?

Yaakov Stein yaakov_s at rad.com
Sun Jul 6 01:05:35 EDT 2008

In Numbers chapter 20 God tells Moses to take the staff,
and with Aaron to gather all the people and speak to the rock.

Instead he speaks angrily to the people and hits the rock twice.
God's response is to punish Moses and Aaron with not entering
the land, and Aaron indeed dies in the next chapter.
The classical commentaries are divided on whether Moses' sin
is losing his temper when speaking with the people (the minority view),
or hitting the rock (the majority view).

But what is Aaron's sin ?
If it is Moses who speaks and hits the rock, why is Aaron punished too ?
Of course he did not speak to the rock as instructed,
but after his younger brother already hit the rock and brought forth a lot of water,
Aaron could certainly be forgiven for seeing talk as unnecessary.

However, we can read the text differently.
Moses and Aaron gather the people.
Someone calls the people rebellious.
Moses picks up his arm and hits the rock twice.

Why are we convinced that it was Moses who spoke to the people?
The last name mentioned in the previous sentence is that of Aaron,
and chiastically we may understand the next sentence to refer to him.
Notably the following sentence feels it important to specify that
it is Moses who picks up his arm and hits the rock - if all this is done
by Moses, then why the need to mention his name here ?

If this is the correct reading, then Aaron is guilty of losing his temper
and calling the people names, and Moses is guilty of losing his temper
and hitting the rock instead of talking with it. Both are guilty of not
speaking to the rock.

This still leaves unsolved the question, raised by Maimonides,
as to why God tells Moses to bring the staff in the first place
if he is not supposed to use it.

Yaakov (J) Stein

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list