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Education 101 – Parshas Chukas 5771

Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
June 27th, 2011
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This entry is part 39 of 40 in the series Torah Sweets Volume 3

The sin of Moshe hitting the rock is beyond our comprehension, however, the commentators express numerous lessons that can be learned from the event. Interestingly, the hitting of the rock is seen by Chazal to refer to Moshe acting as the teacher and the rock being the student. Once again, it is important not to attribute sins to Moshe, but the commentators shed light on important educational outlooks based on this episode.

The Ohr HaChaim lists off ten opinions as to what Moshe did wrong. Each one is a most relevant lesson to us both in the classroom, at home, and in our personal relationships.

1- Rashi: “Hashem told Moshe to speak to the rock, but he hit it.” We must always bear in mind that properly speaking to someone will accomplish more than physical contact.

2- Ibn Ezra: “Moshe did not have the right concentration when he hit the rock because he was distracted by the nation’s bickering and complaining that they were thirsty.” An educator must always remain calm and focused. No actions should be taken from a place of confusion. If the educator is frazzled, it is better not to act at all and wait until one calms down.

3- Ibn Ezra: “He was only supposed to hit the rock once, because that constituted speaking to it, but he hit it twice.” Sometimes a “potch” may be necessary, but it must be exact. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe zt”l says from his Rebbe, Rabbi Elya Lopian zt”l, that hitting a child is not a punishment of pain, but rather it is a light tap of love that expresses that the parent expects more from the child and the present behavior is not acceptable.

4- Ibn Ezra: “the Jews should have sung a song of thanks to Hashem.” Our Chinuch revolves around teaching our children to praise Hashem and to recognize His Guiding Hand and Eternal Kindness.

5- Ibn Ezra: “Moshe called the Jews ‘rebels’”. Educators must be so careful not to label children as failures. A child who is called a name by his Rebbe can be scarred for life. I dealt with the sweetest student who once confided in me that he thought of himself as a liar because that was a name that he was once called by a teacher who had falsely accused him of doing something. It took months for me to show him that he was truly a good person with middos, honesty, and so much to offer.

6- Rambam: “Moshe got angry leading the Jews to think that Hashem was angry at them as well, which was not the case.” This is powerful, as educators, we represent the Torah and Hashem and our children associate the feelings that we produce in them to be emanating from Hashem. This is a sobering wakeup call for how we interact and communicate with them.

7- Rabbeinu Chananel: “Moshe made it sound as if he and Aharon were bringing out the water and not Hashem.” We must educate our children to see the Hand of Hashem in everything.

8-R”M Kohen: “Moshe made it sound like it was impossible for Hashem to make water come from the rock.” Hashem is all capable and can do anything.

9- R”Y Albo (Ikrim): “Moshe and Aharon should have brought the Jews water before they even had to complain that they lacked it. And when the Jews did complain this showed their lack of Bitachon in Hashem.” The educator must be in tune with the needs of the students and he must instill in them a deep belief in Hashem.

10- Maaseh Hashem: The Jews and Moshe were arguing and Moshe threw his stick onto the rock in anger.” There is no room for anger in an educational setting, ever. I always tell my students, “you can get angry, or you can solve the problem, but you can’t do both.” If someone feels angry, that is okay, but there is never a time to express anger. It is fire that destroys relationships.

Once again, it must be stressed that Moshe is called by the dear title of ‘Rabbainu, our teacher’, because he was the master pedagogue of the Jews. The commentators are expressing a sin that Moshe did that was the minutest fraction of the above listed transgressions, and Hashem was extra strict on Moshe. May we learn to be effective, thoughtful, and warm educators who instill Ahavas HaTorah and Yiras Shamayim in our students and families.


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