For the rest of their travels, until they entered the Land of Israel, the Well of Miriam once again traveled through the desert, miraculously providing water for Bnei Yisrael.
It seemed like a happy ending to the story… but HaShem was disappointed with Moshe. HaShem said to him, “You had a chance to make a Kiddush HaShem – to sanctify My name. But you didn’t.”
Moshe’s heart dropped, as HaShem continued, “Why did you not speak to the rock as I commanded you? If you only would have spoken, I would have led you to the proper rock and Bnei Yisrael would have learned a valuable lesson – if an object like a rock that has no brain follows Hashem’s commandment, certainly human beings must obey My will – the will of HaShem. Since you did not have enough faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael, neither you Moshe nor your brother Aharon shall lead Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael!”
Moshe heard. He understood. But, as we shall see in the upcoming Parshiyos, Moshe never gave up pleading and begging HaShem to allow him to enter the Holy Land.
The Torah calls this place Mei Merivah – The Waters of Quarrelling.
Why should the holy Moshe and Aharon deserve such a severe punishment for a small sin?! Didn’t they risk their lives for the sake of HaShem and the Jewish Nation time and time again?!
The answer to these questions is that Moshe and Aharon were special. For such holy people there is no such thing as a small sin. Indeed, the greater the person, the higher the responsibility. In French they call it, “noblesse oblige” – nobility obligates. “Parlez-vous français?” (“Do you speak French?”)
But what exactly was this “small sin” of Moshe and Aharon? Reading the text of this “Hitting the Rock Episode,” it’s not very clear.
Indeed, the wise Ramban (1194-1270) writes, “this is a great secret of the mysteries of the Torah.”
Throughout history, many great Sages attempted to explain this, each one following his own style. If fact, one great Torah commentator, Rabbi Chaim Ibn Itar, (1696-1743), lists no fewer than ten explanations from the most brilliant Rabbis throughout the ages. Yet, he continues to refute each and every one of them and comes up with his own solution.
Another great commentator who offered several reasons was Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) in his commentary on the Chumash. He was the advisor of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella back in the times of the Spanish Inquisition and was some incredible Rabbi!
Bottom line: The reason there are soooo many different explantions is because there is no one solid explanation that satisifed everybody. It truly remains a mystery. How fitting that this mystery is in Parsahs Chukas which opens with the ultimate “Mitzvah Mystery” – the Parah Adumah.