In our parasha we read of a very disturbing incident, disturbing both on the general, communal level, as well as on the personal plane. I refer to the incident on account of which Moshe Rabbenu was denied the privilege of entering Eretz Yisrael. Let us briefly review what happened. Moshe was asked to speak to the rock and thereby extract water from it, but instead he hit the rock. Water nevertheless emerged in abundance. Hashem´s response was particularly harsh: “Since you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me,” He declared, Moshe and Aharon were denied permission to bring Am Yisrael into their land.
The question that must bother each and every one of us is as follows. A punishment serves two purposes: as a deterrent, and to actually punish a wrong that was committed. Certainly our case carries with it an element of deterrence, but why is this sin punished with barring Moshe and Aharon´s entry into Eretz Yisrael? Wherein lies the connection between the sin and the punishment?
It seems to me that from several commentaries we may arrive at the following explanation. Prior to Benei Yisrael´s entry into the land, Hashem tells Moshe that from this moment on, he no longer needs his staff; he must rather speak. But Moshe still employs the method of chutz la´aretz, he still uses the staff of the past, which indeed worked on more than one occasion, from Egypt to the splitting of the Yam Suf.
But the Almighty detects here a problem having to do with detaching oneself from the past and preparing for entry into the Land. A leader and every person must have a critical sense that when the time comes to detach oneself from the past and move forward to the future, he must direct his steps accordingly, rather than continuing his attachment to his past, despite its success. Moshe therefore does not earn permission to enter the Land. The leadership must be changed. Yehoshua, Moshe´s loyal disciple, will lead the nation into the Land.
Before our imminent departure from Montreal, we would like to thank the entire community from the bottom of our hearts for these three wonderful years we spent together. May you continue to grow “from strength to strength,” until we all come together in Tzion.