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Mistakes: Tafalnu Sheker

“Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before God! Why did you bring God’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”


Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of God appeared to them. God said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

So Moses took the staff from God’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But God said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to sanctify Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with God and where He was proved holy among them (Numbers 20:2-13).”

Although the verse describes the place as where God, “was proved only among them,” we are still told that God was angry with Moses and Aaron for their failure to, “sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel.” the sanctification of God’s Name was less, Taful, then it would have been had Moses spoken to the rock. That lived till bit less than what it could have been added an element of falsehood to Moses’s actions.

A rushed prayer that is less than it could have been, has this quality of Tafalnu Sheker. A Shabbat, a festival, any mitzvah that is performed with Taful, a since that it is less then what it truly is, is Tafalnu Sheker. It is similar to one person saying to another, “I love you,” when it is clear that he does not.

Moses is frustrated by his inability to repair his sin: “I implored God at that time, saying, “My Master, God, the Lord, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong and, for what power is there in the heaven or on the earth that can perform according to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts? Let me now cross and see the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.” But God became angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me; God said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter. Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes westward, northward, self word, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:23–27).”

Moses was frustrated, but God described His greatest prophet so that all would know forever that Moses’s mistake had been repaired: “Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom God had known face to face, as evidenced by all the signs and wonders that God sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharoah and all his courtiers and all his land, and by all the strong hand and awesome power that Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10–12).”

God teaches us that the fixing of Moses’s sin could be found in the broader view of the life of the greatest Prophet. There will always be mitzvot we perform at less than optimal levels. Our focus must be not on the specific actions but on the message we convey by the way we live. If our actions reflect the truth of our convictions, we will have successfully repaired Tafalnu Sheker.

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