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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Bemidbar: Parashat Houqat: To Drink the Water is Divine

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In Parashat Huqat we read about with many fascinating trials and tribulations that our forefathers persevered through. The most classic is the events of Meh Merivah, where Moshe erred in front of the nation, and is later denied entry into Israel due to his actions. We also read of Missvah of Parah Adumah, whose ashes are sprinkled with water upon the impure as a purification ritual. Parashat Huqat also includes the deaths of Miryam Haneviah (the prophet) and Aharon HaKohen (high priest), the siblings of Moshe Rabeynou.

After the passing of Miryam Haneviah, we learn of a shortage of water for the nation: ".there Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moshe and Aharon." (Bemidbar 20: 1-2)

The Gemara tells us that the water that came miraculously from the rock throughout Bnei Yisrael's years in the desert had stopped. This miracle was being supported through the merit of Miryam. Once she passed on, the miracle stopped and Bnei Yisrael complained for water.

There are many opinions to what happened at Meh Merivah, what sin did Moshe commit, if he did commit one, etc. However, the Meshech Hochma brings a wonderful idea embedded in this crucial event.

Generally, the blessing which Hashem rewards someone is in quality and not quantity; for this is the greater splendor of Hashem, to make one satisfied with eating less and to quench a thirst with a small amount of liquid. As we see here: ".and you will eat your bread, to full satisfaction." (Vayiqra 26:5) Rashi explains there that a small amount of bread will be blessed in the stomachs of Bnei Yisrael and satisfy them fully. It is Hashem's way is to enhance the quality of the food when blessing it.

With this in mind, had Meh Merivah gone as designed, there would have been a blessing in the quality of the water. The amount of water that flowed would be the same, but one's thirst would be quenched sooner. The drinking of water for Bnei Yisrael would have been divine and spiritual in nature, where the blessing of Hashem would come true while the water would be in them.

The drinking of the animals is for a very different purpose. An animal drinks to extinguish a burning feeling from within by instinct. There is no divine blessing present.

When Hashem's name was not sanctified by the actions of Moshe, the drinking of the nation now paralleled that of the drinking of animals. Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the rock, and also states: ".You will bring water out of the rock for the community and the livestock of theirs." (Bemidbar 20:8)

In Hebrew, "the community and the livestock of theirs" is in the Torah as, "Et Haedah veEt Beiram". The word "Et", "the", separates HaEdah (the community) and Beiram (their animals). However, when Moshe desecrated the Name of Hashem and hit the rock it states: "Water gushed out, and the community and livestock (of theirs) drank." In Hebrew: "HaEdah VeBeriam" – here there is no difference between the drinking of the nation and the drinking of the animals.

Similarly, when Hashem commands Moshe, he states that "water" will come forth. However, when Moshe hit the rock, it states that "mayim rabim" "gushing water" came out. As we have explained, because the drinking of the nation became similar to that of the animals, the blessing of Hashem could no longer be in the quality of water, but only in quantity.

We can add to this and say that this is the very reason why Bnei Yisrael did not appreciate the gift of the Manna later in this Parasha: "they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!" (Bemidbar 21:5)

Bnei Yisrael did not learn the lesson at Meh Merivah to appreciate the internal blessing of Hashem. How many times in our lives, whe
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