"Abba, I have a question that is puzzling me."
"What is it, Chaim?"
"We say that Hashem is just and His punishments are just."
"Then why were Moshe and Aharon punished so severely? They were denied the thing most dear to them - entrance to Eretz Yisrael. What was their sin? They hit the rock instead of speaking to it. It seems like such a big punishment for a small sin."
"Chaim, this is a famous question that has puzzled the finest Jewish minds over the centuries. I will tell you how The Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l explains it. The verse states, 'These are may meriva (the waters of strife), where the Bnei Yisrael contended with Hashem, and He was sanctified through them' (Bamidbar 20:13). Rashi comments that Moshe and Aharon died as a result of this. When Hashem executes strict judgments with His holy ones, He becomes feared and sanctified among the people. Rav Yerucham refers to this as Kiddush Hashem - sanctification of The Holy Name. People must know that The Almighty rules the world."
"Yes, Abba, but why is such a big punishment necessary?"
"Rav Yerucham answers that we are dealing with kedusha - holiness - the holiness of Hashem's Name, the holiness of the leaders of Klal Yisrael. The tiniest flaw in holiness carries a big punishment. We may not understand the mechanism of how this works. However, there is one thing that we do understand. Holiness is such an awesome and exalted thing, that it cannot tolerate even the smallest imperfection. When dealing with The Holy One and His holy people, we strive for the highest levels.
"Rav Yerucham expands this concept to all mitzvos and aveyros (sins). Every aveyra, even if it is done in total secret, carries an aspect of chilul Hashem (Profaning the Holy Name), and degrading the holiness of the one who sinned. How much more so each and every mitzvah includes with it a Kiddush Hashem. That is the meaning of the words of the blessing, 'Who has sanctified us with His mitzvos.' With each mitzvah, we become holier. And when we become sanctified, we mekadesh Shaim Shomayim."
"How does it work, Abba?"
"When we follow Hashem's command, we realize that He is The Creator, and we are His creations. That is the foundation of Kiddush Hashem, to realize 'Ein Ode Milvado' (Devarim 4:35) - there is none other than Him. The Almighty is the Only Ruler of this universe."
"How did the sin diminish this?"
"Making water flow from a rock is a miracle. However, this miracle has at least two levels. Making the water flow after hitting the rock is an awesome miracle - a supernatural event. However, making water flow after just speaking to the rock is an even bigger miracle. Hitting the rock makes it appear as if there is another force in the world - the force of the staff hitting the rock. Diminishing the miracle by even this small amount lessens the Kiddush Hashem that would have been possible. That is a very grave mistake for such holy ones such as Moshe and Aharon. Therefore, they received a severe punishment."
"Rav Yerucham makes it so clear, Abba."
"Yes, Chaim. The proper choice in life should always be equally clear. And we should always choose to do the will of the Almighty and make a Kiddush Hashem."
Kinderlach . . .
Kiddush Hashem is an awesome mitzvah. Yet it is so common! Every mitzvah, when done li'shaim Shomayim - for the sake of Heaven - contains a Kiddush Hashem. We are doing it solely because Hashem commanded us to do it. That shows that He is the Creator, and we are His creations. That shows that He is the Only Power in the universe - "Ein Ode Milvado." That is an awesome demonstration of His Kingship. That is Kiddush Hashem.
The Power of Speech
It happened again. Another misuse of the power of speech. Over and over again, the Torah records sins related to speech. The sin of the snake in Gan Eden. The sin of the Jews who saw Moshe Rabbeinu kill the Egyptian. The sin of the spies. Now, the complaints about the miraculous food called mun. It was truly a wonderful gift. The mun fell every day ready to eat for every Jew. They did not have to plow, plant, reap, grind, or bake it. It tasted like whatever food they wanted. What could be better than that? Yet, they complained about it. "It is not digested like normal food. It will make us sick." You complain about Hashem's acts of kindness? The reward is swift and deadly. "Hashem sent the fiery serpents against the people and they bit them. A large number of them died." (Bamidbar 21:6). Rashi explains: The snake comes. He was punished for speaking loshon hora. Therefore, he comes to punish those who speak it. To him all foods taste like dust. He comes to punish those who had one food that tasted like everything.
Kinderlach . . .
We speak a lot about speech because the Torah speaks a lot about speech. The Chofetz Chaim zt"l explains in his book "Shmiras HaLashon" the reason why speech is so powerful. Speech is totally spiritual and spiritual forces are more powerful than physical ones. Our speech goes straight up to the heavens and causes big things to happen up there. If we speak words of Torah, we bring lot of blessing to the world up there and down here. If we speak loshon hora, destruction comes. Make a cheshbon. Use your power of speech the right way to bring blessing to yourself, your family, friends, neighbors and the whole world.
Why did Klal Yisrael return to Har HaHar and what happened there? (Rashi 21:4)
What was "lechem ha'klokeil?" (Rashi 21:5)
Which three mountains were not flattened out by the Annanei HaKovod? (Rashi 20:22)
How did Aharon die? (Rashi 20:26)
Who cried for Aharon and why? (Rashi 20:29)
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