Thursday, July 06, 2006

the cheit of mei meriva and the power of the tzadik

The various opinions as to exactly what Moshe’s cheit in the episode of Mei Meriva was are too numerous for me to count much less analyze, so I will just highlight one of my favorites. Although we regular Joes find our lives governed by the rules of teva, a tzadik or navi whose life is dedicated to the purely spiritual is unencumbered by such boundries. The laws of nature and physics are an expression of G-d’s will; where G-d’s will as represented by the needs of the tzadik conflicts with the usual laws of nature, then the needs of the tzadik win out. The gemara says R’ Chanina ben Dosa did not need oil for his lamp because, “He who said oil should burn can also say vinegar can burn”. Similarly, when R’ Chanina was unaffected by a mortal snakebite because sin kills, not snakebites – do not try this at home, as it only works if you are living on a level like that of R’ Chanina and see all of reality as just ratzon Hashem. R’ Pinchas ben Yair could split a river just like kerias yam suf because a physical river’s normal flow must defer to the tzadik’s mission to do Hashem's bidding. (For more on this theme, see the piece entitled Split the Difference in the KallahMagazine divrei torah archives here). When presented with the challenge of people crying for water, Moshe and Ahron had a tremendous opportunity to teach this lesson to Bnei Yisrael. They could have simply squeezed water from a rock like you or I squeeze an orange because nature obeys the desire of a tzadik. Yet, instead of doing so, Moshe and Ahron retreated to Ohel Moed and waited for Hashem’s response. “Lo he’emantem bi l’hakdisheini” – the failure to instill the belief in the power of the tzadik was a failure of emunah, and that is the reason for the severe punishment meted out.
So where did I get this idea from? Noam Elimelech? Radomsker? Some other chassidishe sefer? Guess again! It's in Sefer haIkkarim 4:22 – take a look!


  1. That reminds of an Teshuva from teh Chasam Sofer that discusses the ramifications of Adar Sheini. In the teshuva he says that teva is controlled by the Torah and the rayah is from a Rashi in R"H who says that Tu B'Shvat is always the time when the sap begins to flow in the trees. How could this be possible in a leap year when Shevat is a month earlier. Teh Chasam Sofer says we see from here that the Torah determines teva and if Tu B'Shvat is a month early than the sap flows month earlier.

  2. that is a slightly different idea (which there are other ra'ayos to) that chazal through their gezeiros determine teva. The c.s. does not seem to make sense - the whole point of the leap year is that if not for the leap month the seasons would be off (i.e. the sap would run too early) so we correct it. Anyway, this is the idea of transcending teva, not defining it.

  3. Anonymous9:26 PM

    It strikes me that there is an important difference between Meribah and the others examples cited. To produce water at Meribah was something that would be done in the sight of, and to meet the needs of, the entire Community of Israel. The others were, so to speak, private incidents--they involved the tzaddik only, or a specific group of people.

  4. But that is exactly the point of the Sefer Ikkarim - the goal of mei meriva was to *publicly* display and implant the belief in the masses of the power of the tzadik to transcend the bounds of nature.