by Netanel Livni
What happened at Mei Meriva? Why did Moshe and Aaron get punished so severely for their actions? There are as many answers to this questions as there are commentators on the Torah. Did Moshe hit the rock when he should have spoken to it? Did he hit it twice instead of once? Did he throw the stick? Did he speak disparagingly of the nation?
I would like to focus on the Maharal's explanation. The Maharal explains that the sin of Moshe is right before our eyes – explicit in the text. Does the Torah not say (Numbers 20:12):
יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל – Because you did not believe/trust in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of IsraelClick here to read moreAccording to the Maharal, Moshe and Aaron's sin was one of belief or trust. Since this is so explicit in the Torah, why did no earlier commentator give a similar explanation? Well... I think the answer is that this is a very difficult thing to say about Moshe Rabbeinu!
In truth, the Maharal also has a problem with leaving such a pshat without expanding on it. The danger in this pshat is that many of us think of belief as a purely intellectual function. You either decide to believe or you don't – there is no middle ground. The Maharal explains that the problem with Moshe's behavior is that during the entire episode, he displayed an angry attitude – lacking in joy, serenity, and happiness. According to the Maharal, Emunah and Simcha must go hand in hand. In other words, the test of Emunah is not in a catechism or in a verbal deceleration but rather in the emotional expression of the faithful!
A leader who responds to challenge with joy and trust is the one who is capable of sanctifying the Heavenly Name.
I believe that the Maharal's explanation can also help us understand an underlying cause of our exile (Deuteronomy 28:47):
תחת, אשר לא עבדת את ה' אלהיך, בשמחה, ובטוב לבב - because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heartThere is much more depth to happiness than we realize! It appears that happiness is an indicator of our trust in the Almighty. Thus, failure to express our joy in serving God results in exile from our land or in Moshe's case, the inability to enter it in the first place.