The Bible Says What? ‘Moses could not enter Israel because he hit a rock’
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? ‘Moses could not enter Israel because he hit a rock’

 Rabbi Danny Rich takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a Liberal response

“You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it.”

In this verse from Deuteronomy, God is clear. Moses is to die on the east side of the River Jordan, having only a glimpse of the physical manifestation of the idea to which he dedicated his life: a Jewish people, freed from the bondage of Egypt and living in a land of their own.

This divine decision arises from the incident recorded in Numbers 20, where the children of Israel are thirsty and indulge in their typical sentimental whingeing.

Moses and Aaron are fearful of a coup and seek divine guidance. God advises the people should be gathered before a rock and Moses should instruct the rock to produce water.

Inexplicably, Moses does not speak to the rock, but instead strikes it twice and water aplenty is the result. 

The people are satisfied, but God is displeased and announces what seems a disproportionate punishment: not to lead the Israelites into their Promised Land.

The harshness of this penalty meted out to a loyal  servant – and by a God who seeks recognition as merciful – has troubled commentators for generations.

Moses was the leader of a community. Leadership has its perks, but its responsibilities weigh more heavily.

Any individual can carry out an action that may destroy another person’s world, but leaders have the potential to wreak havoc on a greater scale.

No leaders are perfect and there is a hypocrisy in condemning in our leaders those faults we tolerate in ourselves.

Yet leadership is a balance of privilege and burden, of expectation and responsibility.

Perhaps in an inelegant way God was seeking to signal to Moses’ successor Joshua and those after him that a leader is an entity with the potential to inflict great harm, but also the capacity to promote much good. 

Rabbi Danny Rich is a vice president of Liberal Judaism

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments