The Depth of Why Moshe Rabbenu Lost Entrance into The Land

Rav Shmuel Kadar ZT”L, author of the Hechel Shlomo series, which prepares rabbinical students for the Rabbanut Smicha tests in Israel, was a rebbe of mine when I was studying in Kollel Meretz between the years 2003-07.  While Rav Kadar himself was studying the Halachot for rabbinic ordination some 40 years ago, he realized there was no structured guide to help students focus their studies on what is fundamental and what is less crucial.  He developed a detailed manual to assist students in Hilchot Shabbot, Kashrut, Nidda, Eruvin, Avalut and Mikvaot (the first level smicha topics).  Furthermore, he gathered and printed all the types of questions (and answers) that could be asked on each of the exams so a student could once again focus their chazara in the most efficient way possible.  Rav Kadar was a unique and beloved talmid chacham with special middot and I always enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with him in Torah during the three years that I had the privilege.

During bein hazmanim, the summer break, going into my fourth and final year word was spread that the rav had become ill.  Initially it was unclear to us what exactly the rav was suffering from.  About two weeks before Rosh Hashana it became known that Rav Kadar was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach.  We dovined with intensity and conviction that Rav Kadar, who had served as Rav in this beit midrash for over a quarter of a century, should return to his post.  It was not meant to be; his holy soul was recalled Sukkot of 5767.

It was among the last shiurim, maybe the last that Rav Kadar gave in his life.  I remember it well because I had just taken my exam in hilchot shabbot, after mastering Rav Kadar’s book on Hilchot Shabbot.  Drained and worn out after months of preparation, nonetheless, I managed to still show up for learning and I was excited to attend a rare shiur that Rav Kadar was giving on parsha.  In that shiur he uncovered for us a fundamental explanation of the specific attributes of Moshe Rabbenu, as they express themselves in the Mi Meriva story in Parshat Chukat.  I would like to share a small taste of that shiur L’ilui Nishmat HaRav Shmuel Elyakim Kadar ZT”L.

Thirty nine years had passed and the generation that had experienced Yitziat Mitzrayim and Matan Torah had mostly died out.  For the last 38 years there had been no extra-ordinary miracles, aside from the באר, ענני הכבוד ומן, which became almost like natural occurrences for Bnai Yisrael.  Similarly, during this period Moshe Rabbenu lacked a direct connection “Panim el Panim” the way he had previously. (Taanit 30b)

The stage had been set for a new generation to enter into a new land, a new realm with a new reality.  Eretz Yisrael would be the place where Hashem’s Divine Providence would be hidden (הנהגה ניסתרת).  Bnai Yisrael would now have to place their efforts and focus on השתדלות in the natural world (a reality the miraglim despised) coupled with אמונה תשובה ותפילה.

Immediately after the death of Miriam and the disappearance of the “wonder well,” Moshe and Aharon were given the mission to model and educate Am Yisrael about the new reality which would soon greet them.  Hashem commanded Moshe “to take the staff and speak to the rock, in front of the eyes of Bnai Yisrael.”  The Nitzi”v explains explicitly, what other mifarshim explain implicitly, that Bnai Yisrael “should believe that even without the strength and might of Moshe they can “make things happen” through the Tfillot of the rabim (community/nation).

While Moshe Rabbenu initially followed the orders of Hashem and it is noteworthy that the Torah tells us so, subsequently, he became overwhelmed by the complaining of Bnai Yisrael and struck the stone twice.  Bnai Yisrael were unable to fathom their leader who had split the sea and had orchestrated the Ten Plagues now as a Shaliach tzibbur –prayer leader.  Moshe Rabbenu uncomfortable with this inundation from the demanding people who wanted him to produce and his natural tendency to bring out miracles in the most supernatural way combined to cause a breakdown of immense proportion.

What’s the significance of the two times that Moshe struck the stone?

Moshe struck the stone once and nothing happened; no water emerged.  The apparent Divine hope was that by hitting the rock with nothing to show for it would teach the nation the intended lesson – we now produce water through prayer and not miracles.  However, when Moshe hit the rock a second time it forced the Hand of Hashem to bring the water forth.  Seemingly, it would have been a greater desecration if this incident would have discredited Moshe’s leadership completely by not having the rock spill forth its water than the damage that was done by Moshe’s insubordination and incompliance with the intended lesson that was meant to be taught here.

The result and punishment of the incident was most fitting and appropriate.  Rav Kadar writes, “Here the judgment of Moshe Rabbenu was sealed that he would not lead Israel into the land.  Israel is a place of hidden providence and Moshe could not serve as leader under these circumstances.”

We anxiously wait for the time when Eretz Yisrael will transform form a place of hidden miracle status to revealed miracle status and then we will all greet Moshe Rabbenu, Rav Kadar, my Father-In-Law and all of the other Tzaddikim with the Geula Shlama.

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