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Rubbing It In

Friday, 2 July, 2021 - 7:39 am

When my toddler daughter attended her second day of camp, she cried for a few minutes before settling in. The next day at drop-off we reminded her how much fun she had the day before. And, I also encouraged her by sharing that she had only cried for five minutes the day before.

Why was I rubbing it in? Why remind her that she was anxious and cried?


In this week’s Parsha of Pinchas we read about Moshe’s final view of Israel. He was, after all, denied entry into the coveted land. The Torah states:

The Lord said to Moses, "Go up to this mount Abarim and look at the land that I have given to the children of Israel.

And when you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother was gathered.

Because you disobeyed My command in the desert of Zin when the congregation quarreled, when you were to sanctify Me through the water before their eyes; these were the waters of dispute at Kadesh, in the desert of Zin.

On every occasion that the topic of entering the Holy Land comes up, G-d reminds Moshe that he will not enter. But He also continuously mentions the reason – because you failed to sanctify My Name when you hit the rock.

Why is G-d treating Moshe so harshly, giving him an extra jab each time the conversation centers on this subject? It’s enough that he is not going. Why remind the holiest of men that he has sinned? Is it not pouring salt on an open wound?


The Talmud offers a different perspective:

There were once two people who sinned, one by committing adultery and the other by transgressing a minor violation of the Shemittah (Sabbatical) year.

At the court of law, when their punishments were administered, the court made a huge announcement about the one who had a minor lapse, while virtually ignoring the major offender.


The Talmud explains that this was in order that no one should assume – even for a moment – that the second person had violated the Torah in as severe a degree as the first.  So the court went out of its way to proclaim that this is only a minor transgression.

Here, too, the Almighty is promoting the greatness of Moshe. Nobody should imagine – at any time – that Moshe ever really rebelled against G-d. His shortcoming was so slight that G-d continuously mentions it.


The truth is that my daughter cried for dozens of minutes on the first day of camp. Crying for five minutes on day two was a huge improvement. That’s what I was reminding her. “You have made such great strides, and today can be even better!”

Even when – out of necessity – we must punish, criticize or even mention wrongdoing, we should always strive to find the positive.

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