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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Chukas (69)

This week's sedra teaches the laws of the Red Heifer and events that happened toward the end of the Israelites travels in the wilderness; the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, the war with the Canaanites and Sichon king of the Emori nation. The most prominent event was the sin of Moses at the Waters of Strife.

Numbers 20:13

They are the Waters of Strife where the Children of Israel contended with Hashem and He was sanctified through them.


and He was sanctified through them: Rashi: In that Moses and Aaron died through them; for when the Holy One blessed be He, carries out judgment with His holy ones, He is feared and sanctified by people. And thus it says: "G-d is awesome from His sanctuary' (Psalms 68:36) and it also says: 'I will be sanctified through those who are close to Me.' (Leviticus 10:3).


Rashi is saying that the words "through them" refer to Moses and Aaron, through their death was G-d sanctified. Others say 'them' may refer to the waters.

If the death of Moses and Aaron was G-d's way of being feared, as Rashi says, what would you ask?

Your Question:


A Question: Ramban questions Rashi's assumption that the death of Moses and Aaron where the means of sanctifying G-d's name, because neither died at that time. Moses lived to be 120 and Aaron to be 123 years old. This is not similar to the case of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, who died instantaneously when they offered strange fire to G-d. (See Leviticus 10:3) Can you answer this difficult question?

Your Answer:


An Answer: While Moses and Aaron didn't die soon after this event, but rather as result of this event they were not allowed to enter the Land of Israel, so, in a sense, they died "early"- dying in the wilderness and not in the Land of Israel. We have a similar situation in the Bereishis story of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge. G-d had said "on the day that you eat from it you will die." But they didn't die on that day; they were only expelled from the Garden. The explanation there is that on that day they became mortal and were doomed to die eventually. So too, in our case we can say that on the day they sinned they were doomed to die, eventually - in the wilderness. Had they not sinned, they would have died but not in the wilderness. So when they died, even if not immediately, was the point in sanctifying G-d.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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