Interview With Moses: Part Two – The "Chok" of The Staff
We wondered why Moshe granted our interview request, his first in almost 40 years. We now understand that he intended to use this “interview” to teach us. He left us with a tantalizing, “and there’s more…” just before our batteries died and we had to take a short break.
“Moshe Rabbeinu, may I ask a short question before you continue? Joshua mentioned during our break that in the future there will be a book called the Haggadah, and it will contain the following phrase: “With signs,” – refers to the staff, as it says, “Take this staff in your hand, that you may perform the miraculous signs with it.” (Exodus 4:37) Is this related to what you described earlier about the Staff you used to hit the rock and how that was connected with the time when God instructed you to throw the staff and it turned into a snake?
“Excellent question! Tell me; was that the only time the staff turned into a snake?”
“No. Aharon did that in front of Pharaoh.”
“Very good, although there were some differences, which I hope you study. Do you know why God wanted me to throw the staff as one of the signs for the people? We know that it didn’t convince Pharaoh. How would it convince the Jews?”
“I heard that when God ordered you to throw the staff it was to tell you that you deserved to be punished for suspecting the people of not believing you. (Shemot Rabbah 3:12)”
“The famous Staff would be the instrument that God would use to demonstrate to the people that He would hold me accountable for the way I spoke of them. The sign wasn’t how it transformed into a snake, but that God would punish me for doubting the people. The same Staff that would make signs and wonders would demonstrate God’s love for the people. The Staff itself was the sign – the sign of God’s love.
“When I spoke to the people in anger, ‘Listen now, O rebels,’ (Numbers 20:10) I ended up using the Staff to damage myself.”
“Let me understand; the seeds of the recent tragedy of the Rock were planted at that first meeting with God. Everything that happened was simply being played out again at the Rock. You always knew that the Staff would also be used to punish you for treating God’s people with less than full respect.
“Is that why God instructed you, “Take the staff and gather together the assembly?” (20:8)
“Just think; what does it say I did?”
“Moses took the staff from before God.’ (Verse 9) What does ‘from before’ mean?”
“Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with HIS staff twice.’ (Verse 11) I used it as my staff, not as the Staff of the signs. Do you recall that first sign with the Staff, “God said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ and he said, ‘A staff.’ (Exodus 4:2) Whenever it is in my hand it is only a staff. My failure began the second I picked up my staff ‘from before God.’ The Staff will never allow itself to be used against its nature. The Hebrew word for a defining characteristic is ‘Chok.’ Sound familiar? Rocks cannot go against their ‘Chok’ and neither can the Staff.”
We were overwhelmed with all this information and we had so many new questions that we requested another short break to digest what Moshe had taught us.
“Of course,” he said with a warm smile, “but I want you to consider what happened with Korach, when I seemed to ask God that He change the Chok of the earth to respond to Korach. Count the number of ‘signs’ it took to calm the people and convince them that Aharon is the true Cohen Gadol, and compare that to the number of signs God gave me to convince the Jews almost 40 years ago. There, obviously, is more…”
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