Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Chukat

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi asks the question: Why was Aharon punished for Moshe’s actions?

It’s one of the best known stories of the Torah, but still there is so much more to learn from it.

Hashem commanded Moshe to speak to the rock. Instead, he struck the rock and from that rock, water came forth.

Hashem’s intention was for a ‘Kal Vechomer’ to take place: The people should have said ‘wow, if a rock can listen to a commandment, how much more so, (Kal Vechomer), should we be obeying the commandments of Hashem’. Instead, they made a different Kal Vechomer. They said, ‘if Moshe of all people can disobey the word of Hashem, then Kal Vechomer, how much more so, can we disobey His word’.

Hashem’s intention was for a Kal Vechomer’ to take place: The people should have said ‘wow, if a rock can listen to a commandment, how much more so, (Kal Vechomer), should we be obeying the commandments of Hashem’

As a result, Moshe of course was punished. But notice the wording given by Hashem – ‘Vayedaber Hashem El Moshe V’El Aharon’, ‘Hashem called out to Moshe and Aharon’, because the two of you did not sufficiently believe in me to sanctify my name.

Hold on… where did Aharon come from? Moshe was the only person involved in this whole, epic drama, Aharon did nothing.

But that’s the whole problem – Aharon did nothing. He should have done something.

You know, there is a Mitzvah in the Torah in Parashat Kedoshim, ‘Hocheiach Tocheiach Amitecha’, ‘you shall surely reprove your fellow’. And the Passuk there says ‘Hocheiach Tocheiach’ in order to tell us that sometimes it is a Mitzvah to intervene, but sometimes it is a Mitzvah to keep shtum.

‘But that’s the whole problem – Aharon did nothing. He should have done something’

To keep shtum, you are quiet when your intervention could actually make things worse, that is sometimes what happens. However, if your intervention can save the day, if you can prevent somebody from doing something wrong then of course, you need to open your mouth.

And that’s exactly what Aharon failed to do. He could have inspired and motivated his brother to do the right thing but he just stood there, not opening his mouth at all. And therefore, he was an accomplice and he suffered the fate of his brother. Both of them did not merit to enter into the Holy Land.

It was Edmund Burke who famously taught, ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing’.

Shabbat Shalom

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