When Bad is Good

Friday, 26 July, 2019 - 9:24 am

When cooking at home, my wife often reminds to choose the lesser of two “evils” as much as possible. If it’s a choice between margarine and olive oil, go with the latter. If the options are sugar versus corn syrup, go with the former.

Truthfully, too much olive oil is no good either. But compared to margarine or shortening it’s looking mighty holy.


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.


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

Comments on: When Bad is Good
There are no comments.