We know well the terrible story of Moshe hitting the rock to which he was supposed to speak.
This week is the story of the rock he was ordered to strike with his staff.
Why was he told to hit the rock of this week’s portion, but only to speak to the rock after Miriam’s death almost 40 years later ?
Rabbi Jacob Schachter answered that the Children of Israel in this week’s portion were like very young children – 40 years later they had matured. Moses could not deal with them 40 years later as he dealt with them now. Young children may not understand certain dangers and must learn by force, but one cannot teach an older child the same way; we must speak to them and explain.
Now, Moshe could hit the rock. 40 years later, there could be no more hitting, or signs of force. Moshe had to speak, to teach and explain.
Torah, our relationship with God and to His Mitzvot, must be taught differently at each stage of life.
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