| Parshah |

Parshas Chukas: Making Mistakes

Everyone needs a Rebbe, a mentor, a guide — someone who can give him frank and honest advice

“…Do you think we will extract for you water from this rock?” (Bamidbar 20:10)

The exact nature of the “Sin of Mei Merivah” is the subject of tremendous dispute among the commentaries. The most widely quoted explanation is that Moshe Rabbeinu hit the rock rather than speaking to it. However, the Ramban quotes Rabbeinu Chananel, who says that Moshe’s aveirah was that he used the word “we.” Moshe’s rhetorical question should have been: “Do you think Hashem will extract for you water from this rock?” This minor grammatical slip might have caused the people to mistakenly think that Moshe and Aharon would be able to extract water from the rock through their own wisdom. According to Rabbeinu Chananel, a single letter prefix — “we” — showed carelessness in this crucial theological matter, and that was the aveirah which caused Moshe and Aharon to die before reaching Eretz Yisrael. The pasuk alludes to this saying “…Since you did not sanctify My Name in the midst of Bnei Yisrael” (32:51). (Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Torah.Org)

I always feel like I’m running behind, no matter how fast I’m going. (The Energizer bunny has nothing compared to the average Jewish mom!) Add to the fact that I’m a Yekkeh and being late is one of the yehareig v’al ya’avors….

On that particular Tuesday, I was running as usual. Dentist appointment for Yitzi, drop-off first at the cleaners, swing into the pharmacy because it’s on the way, squirm in line because we cannot be late to dentist, run back to parking lot, press my clicker to unlock my car, jump in to race to the dentist.

Rabbeinu Chananel’s interpretation is quite shocking. Remember, this event took place forty years post Yetzias Mitzrayim. The Jewish people had witnessed Moshe’s leadership style, during which he always attributed everything to the direct intervention of Hashem. Furthermore, even within this particular incident, there were obvious miracles, such as all of Bnei Yisrael being able to fit in the small space next to the rock. Why would Moshe’s use of the word “we” cause anyone to mistakenly think he was referring to his own skill?

But the key doesn’t turn in the ignition. Help! Not now! Not today! I try again, wiggle the steering wheel. Now what? Leave car, flag taxi, then probably wait in the dentist’s office because he’s running late? Yeah, well the dentist isn’t yekkish, so he doesn’t care. I do.

Rav Simcha Zissel Broide says we see from here that a person can always make a mistake, regardless of the circumstances. Something can be as clear as the nose on my face, but if I want to deny it, I can. Someone who wants to deny the Almighty’s intervention in his life, as obvious at it may be, can deny it. Hashem gave us bechirah, the option to choose, even if it’s completely irrational. By Moshe’s using the word “we,” he opened up an opportunity for people to think the wrong thing.
Since it’s always possible for a person to make a mistake, how can he ever be sure that what he’s doing is correct? The answer is: “Make for yourself a Rav.” (Avos 1:6). Everyone needs a Rebbe, a mentor, a guide — someone who can give him frank and honest advice. 

So intense was my stress, I didn’t even notice that Yitzi hadn’t gotten into the car. “Yitzi, let’s go!” I snapped out the window, frantically trying the key once more.

“Ma!” Yitzi’s voice was urgent, finally penetrating my hysteria. “Ma! This isn’t our car!”

Oooh. I pulled myself back from my frenzy and took a look around. Where were my driving glasses? My water bottle? OMG! I was in someone else’s car! Panicking, I leaped out, mortified that I might meet the owner, and petrified that I almost broke my key in someone else’s ignition! And there, two spaces down, was my car, identical in its color, make, and model. My clicker had indeed unlocked my car. But this car had been unlocked already, and it was Not. My. Car. How did I make such an obvious mistake?

To err is human. So I’m no angel. And Yitzi is no rav (at least not yet!). But often we get so mired in our mistakes, it takes someone objective to point them out. And in case I don’t have that objective someone next time around, if you do drive the same car as mine, lock your car!


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 901)

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