The Rambam presents in Moreh Nevuchim a unique approach to the chait of Moshe at .מי מריבה. He says that the aveirah was that Moshe Rabbeinu got so agitated with BneiYisrael’s request for water that he got angry at them and chastised them. At first glance this seems to be an issue of the lack of middostovos. The Meforshim ask is that enough of a shortcoming to punish Moshe by prohibiting him from entering EretzYisrael? What is the midah keneged Middah here?
Torah Seb’al Peh is continuously evolving from generation to generation. Rav Shimshon Pincus ztl asks how do we answer the attack of our critics questioning the verifications of the derivations of all these Rabbinic Institutions and takanos such as Megillahs Esther, Chanukah, Purim, Muktzah, added in each generation. Each blatt of gemarah is riddled with arguments with varying interpretations and disputes of Halacha, Rashi, Tosfos, Rif, Rosh, Rambam and their halachic outcomes. Of course guidelines have been set forth over the generations concerning who to paskin and abide by in a machlokes, but who says these guidelines are valid if they were constructed by our chachamim who always have different ways to look at the situation.
The foundation of verification of all of the above is one of the 13 Principles of Faith in Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy.
אני מאמין באמונה שלימה שנבואת משה רבינו עליו השלום היתה אמיתית ושהוא היה אב לנביאים לקודמים לפניו ולבאים אחריו
Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy was on a different level of nevuah than any other Navi. For instance when two talmidei chachamim hear a shiur they can repeat it to others as close to the source possible. However, it is impossible that there won’t be slight nuances in which they differ because of each one’s personality and way of thinking. The same occurs when two prophets receive the same prophecy it will not exactly match word for word. The gemarah in Sanhedrin says אין שני נביאים מתנבאים בסגנון אחד. However in contrast, if there existed two Moshe Rabbeinu’s in the world and both of them heard nevuah from Hashem, it would be exactly identical to each other with not even the slightest nuance of alteration. Moshe Rabbeinu who heard directly from Hashem gave over the word of Hashem in its purity without the slightest addition. Chazal go further and say that the Shechinah spoke from MosheRabbeinu’s mouth as if we heard the exact words of Hashem from Hashem.
This is the interpretation of the chait of Moshe atמי מריבה according to the Rambam. Am Yisrael gathered before Moshe and complained that they have no water because when Miriam died, the well that supplied them with water through their journey in the desert because of her zechus, disappeared. Moshe became angered at their request and yelled out שמעו נא המרים You are fools and stubborn. You think I can just make water come out of any rock in the desert? He then hit the rock and water came out.
While Rashi learns that Moshe’s sin was he hit the rock instead of speaking to it as commanded, the Rambam learns that his sin was he got angry at them for asking. The problem with Moshe’s aggressive response was that it reflected that Hashem was also angry at Yisrael with the same expression of שמעו נא המורים. For whatever Moshe said, whether it be a good morning to a Yid or mussar to better oneself, it really was Hashem talking through him. However the truth was that Hashem was not angry with their request for water. They have a right to ask for water when there is none available to quench their thirst. Hashem did not want Yisrael to think that he was angry at them for asking. Therefore Moshe’s aggressive response was a Chilul Hashem.
Every dibbur of Moshe Rabbeinu to KlalYisrael was an expression of Hashem’s desire except for this one which came from Moshe himself. This caused a churban and a jeopardizing of the direct Mesorah of the Torah. If Klal YIsrael saw only one time that Moshe acted on his own accord without Hashem’s agreement, Who can guarantee that this did not occur more than once? One can conclude from this one time alone that Torah and the message of Hashem can be man made and fabricated ch”v as well. Am Yisrael can now claim we want only the word of Hashem not interpretations of Man. Don’t answer and say that the chachamim are not just people but rather wholesome men of spiritual stature cleaving to Hashem. If that was so true then how could there be so many arguments of interpretations between everyone? Maybe everyone is mistaken about the word of Hashem.
Rav Saadya Gaon answers this dilemma as follows. Yirmiya Hanavi comes and says כה אמר ה’. Who can prove that he is saying over the authentic words of Hashem? The answer is that we have a mesorah from the NaviYeshaya who preceded him, who testified on the authenticity of Yirmiyahu’s nevuah. Who said Yeshaya is correct in his interpretation? Because Hosheiah the Navi testified on Yeshaya’s accuracy, and Shmuel Hanavi testified on Hosheiah’s authenticity of Nevuah and this mesorah of testimony continues all the way back from Moshe Rabbeinu . But isn’t there still the possibility that he might be lying when he says כה אמר ה’? Rav Saadya Gaon answers, that since by Hashem the past present and future can be seen all at once, and Hashem knows whether a Navi will lie, He will ensure to send only Neveeim who will exclusively transmit the emes of Hashem’s message.
When Yeshaya speaks the word of Hashem we don’t only listen to him because he is Yeshaya Hanavi but rather because Hashem commands us to (Devarim 18,16) אליו תשמעון we must listen to the words of the Prophets. This is not only a command but also a promise that Hashem will verify each and every Navi to ascertain if he will transmit the absolute truth to Am Yisrael. Otherwise, Hashem will not allow him to give Nevuah.
When Moshe tells Am Yisrael that Hashem commanded to put on tefillin that contain certain parshiyos, that they must be black and square, and the mezuzah must be such and such, we can assume he is giving over the exact command of Hashem because Hashem gave His stamp of approval on Moshe’s prophecy with the words וגם בך יאמינו לעולם.
The one time that Moshe transmitted what appeared to be Hashem’s words but it wasn’t, was when he got angry at Yisrael. Because of this shortcoming Moshe could no longer be the leader and Navi of Klal Yisrael and it was therefore decreed upon him not to enter Eretz Yisrael with them.
This same concept of the transmission of the Neveeim applies to the interpretations of the chachamim of Klal Yisrael in every generation. Since Hashem commands in His Torah (Devarim 17, 8-10)
כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט וקמת ועלית אל המקום אשר יבחר ה’ ובאת אל הכהנים הלוים ואל השופט אשר יהיה בימים ההם ודרשת והגידו לך את דבר המשפט ושמרת לעשות ככל אשר יורוך
If a point of law eludes your courts you should make the journey to the place that Hashem chooses. You should come to the priest and to the judges who exist at that time. You should question them and they will tell you words of judgment. You must obey the words that they will tell you. You should carefully obey everything they instruct you. You should act in accordance with the teachings that they instruct you and according to the judgments they issue to you. You must not divert from the words they tell you right and left.
This is not only a command but a promise as mentioned before. Hashem is above time and therefore He is giving His haskamah on the Gedolim of each generation that what they institute or paskin, Hashem is in agreement with them. Nevertheless, it is self – understood that we have to ascertain that this individual is aשומר תורה ומצוות in all aspects and therefore someone you can rely on. For example, Shabsi Tzvi who claimed he was Moshiach, even though he was a gaon and could perform supernatural episodes, he transgressed aveiros publicly claiming that Hashem told him to do so. He was an imposter because of these shortcomings and was not to be trusted. If we do not check out the sage’s credentials of his meticulousness in observing the dvar Hashem, that is our problem not Hashem’s. I remember clearly my Rebbi Rav Shlomo Freifeld ztl relating that the Taz sent his son to check out the authenticity of Shabsi Tzvi and he returned with the psak that he’s a fake. Why? He tied his right shoe before his left. Wait! That is only a seemingly insignificant institution from the Rabbanan? Yet that was enough evidence that you cannot believe anything he says concerning the Torah and the will of Hashem.
Can chachamim lie and falsify the Dvar Hashem? Yes, they are only human and also have a yetzerharah. However, Hashem promises us that if he is an Erlicher authentic Yid, then he will not falsify the word of Hashem. For further discussion concerning אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים look into Tiferes Shimshon Bamidbar p 233 for it is not the scope of this mamar.
According to the Rav Shimshon’s explanation of the Rambam’s interpretation of מי מריבה, we can interpret Hashem’s words to Moshe יען אשר לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני ישראל in a novel way. Only because you did not believe in Me to sanctify me in the eyes of Yisrael. It seems that the words לעיני ישראל is superfluous since the entire congregation was assembled in front of the rock (Rashi 20,10 המיעוט מחזיק את המרובה). The words of לעיני ישראל has another connotation besides in front of all Yisrael. This term refers also to the leaders of Yisrael, the Sanhedrin and judges. By Moshe Rabbeinu getting angry on his own accord without the haskamah of Hashem, he placed theעיני העדה in a compromised light, where they can now be doubted if they are actually transmitting the word of Hashem or their own. For in this scenario Moshe chastised Yisrael for their actions even though Hashem did not feel that this was a just conduct. Hashem’s kedusha of His word, was compromised by this action of Moshe when it comes to the judgments of its Torah leaders. Perhaps not all judgments come from Hashem and are authentic. Maybe they are man – made and Hashem disagrees with them. Hashem says, Here I am promising through theseעיני ישראל that their judgments are My judgments which are holy as I am Holy. However from now on there might be skepticism if they are really saying my words and reflecting my will, for perhaps it might be their own interpretations against my will.
With the above explanation we can understand why in davening we find that when we beseech Hashem to enlighten us with Torah learning, it is followed by the middah of Bitachon. For instance, in the beracha of אהבה רבה which is a substitute Birkas Hatorah if one forgot to recite it, after all our requests for Torah we declare כי בשם קדשך בטחנו. Likewise, in ובא לציון after we ask Hashem הוא יפתח לבנו בתורתו we mention pessukim of Bitachon: בטחו בה’ עד עד, ויבטחו בך יודעי שמך, יגדיל תורה ויאדיר. In both passages we find a special emphasis in trusting in Hashem’s Name כי בשם קדשך and ויבטחו בך יודעי שמך. In order for AmYisrael to enthusiastically take to the task and continue preserving the Torah and Mitzvos, they have to believe in the mesorah and the validity of the Neveeim and Talmidei Chachamim of each generation. The only way for this to happen is to have trust in Hashem whose name הויה represents היה הוה יהיה was, is, and will be; that Hashem is above time. Because of this factor which is only possessed by Him, He promises us that only genuine and authentic individuals will be given the mesorah of Toras Emes for each generation. In this manner Torah can continue to expand its glory without question of the validity of its interpreters. יגדיל תורה ויאדיר!
This concept places a tremendous responsibility on parents and educators. They constantly are demanding from us children to upkeep the word of Hashem and preserve the Torah and mitzovs. If we set a wrong example for them this could cause them to say maybe the things that you tell me to do in the name of Hashem are not true and you are only trying to instill me with fear and control. For if they were true how can you not observe them? The answer that your excuse is that you have a yetzer harah would be a disaster response to a child at such a tender age when they don’t even have yet a yetzer tov. The child’s knee jerk reaction could be “If you don’t listen to Hashem why then should I listen to you”? There goes the mesorah! Heaven forbid that one’s relationship with his family members is “do as I say not as I do”. The authenticity of our Mesorah depends not only on our leaders but also on the type of quality, authentic and exemplary chinuch we transmit to them. We cannot be outdated models for them.
– Rav Brazil