Parasha Inspiration – Beshalach

וַיִּקְרָא֙ שֵׁ֣ם הַמָּק֔וֹם מַסָּ֖ה וּמְרִיבָ֑ה עַל־רִ֣יב | בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְעַ֨ל נַסֹּתָ֤ם אֶת־יְהֹוָה֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר הֲיֵ֧שׁ יְהֹוָ֛ה בְּקִרְבֵּ֖נוּ אִם־אָֽיִן:

He named the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling] because of the quarrel of the children of Israel and because of their testing the Lord, saying, Is the Lord in our midst or not?

– Exodus 17:7

עַל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר מְעַלְתֶּ֜ם בִּ֗י בְּתוֹךְ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּמֵֽי־מְרִיבַ֥ת קָדֵ֖שׁ מִדְבַּר־צִ֑ן עַ֣ל אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־קִדַּשְׁתֶּם֙ אוֹתִ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: כִּ֥י מִנֶּ֖גֶד תִּרְאֶ֣ה אֶת־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְשָׁ֨מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תָב֔וֹא אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִ֥י נֹתֵ֖ן לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

Because you betrayed Me in the midst of the children of Israel at the waters of Merivath Kadesh, [in] the desert of Zin, [and] because you did not sanctify Me in the midst of the children of Israel. For from afar, you will see the land, but you will not come there, to the land I am giving the children of Israel. They provoked [God] by the waters of Meribah, and Moses suffered because of them.

– Deuteronomy 32:51-52

וַיַּקְצִיפוּ עַל־מֵ֣י מְרִיבָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥רַע לְ֜מֹשֶׁ֗ה בַּֽעֲבוּרָֽם:

They provoked [God] by the waters of Meribah, and Moses suffered because of them.

– Psalm 106:32

This week’s parasha for Shabbat Shira contains the first time the children of Israel arrive at Meribah and Massah. The place was so named because of the quarreling of the children of Israel (Meribah) that Moses had no control over. The second time the children of Israel arrive at Meribah, Moses strikes the rock to gain water. This first time, Moses also strikes a rock to gain water, but in both cases the children of Israel arrived at this place being quarrelsome.

The leadership skills of Moses are put to the test, and twice. His skills are found wanting. It is this leadership failure that Moses speaks of in Deuteronomy 32:51. Hashem says that Moses betrayed Hashem in the midst of the people. How? His lack of leadership. Twice at Meribah, but in reality all through the forty-year journey, Moses could not get the children of Israel to stop being quarrelsome.

It is because of this failure that King David wrote in Psalm 106: the people provoked Hashem. And because of this provocation, Moses was not allowed into the land of the promise. So Moses suffered because of the people.

Moses struck the rock for water both times. The first time. Hashem instructed Moses to strike the rock, the second time, Hashem did not instruct Moses to strike the rock, but he struck the rock anyway. Was it because of Moses’ frustration with the people? Perhaps. But the real problem was that if Moses had properly sanctified Hashem before the people, they would not have been quarrelsome. It was because of this failure that Moses was not allowed into the land of the promise. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.