When my son was born, I was told by some smart women: “let him cry”. Do not run at once to take him in your arms, otherwise he will learn that for every little cry, you rush straight to him — and that way he will learn to control you. Let him cry, it’s not terrible, it develops his lungs, and in the end he will get used to you not coming after every cry and he will relax.
My instinct told me otherwise. I listened most attentively to my baby’s crying and slowly I learned to distinguish between the different types of crying and decipher the different sounds that symbolized when he was hungry, when he was wet, when his stomach hurt — and when I recognized the signs I acted accordingly. Sometimes I even managed to anticipate his crying, so that he wouldn’t have to cry at all.
And God? Which kind of mother is God ?
Why, after 40 years in the desert, is Her “child” is still crying?
What is the point of bringing him to such extreme situations every time he complains of thirst and hunger and asks his soul to die? Wasn’t it simpler to provide for his needs ahead of time?
This is what stimulated me when I read this week’s Torah portion.
And I ask, is this an incessant test of “let’s see how you deal with the challenges of reality“?
Complaining – or asking?
Grumbling – or receiving and investigating?
Hit the rock – or talk to it ?
Forty years have passed – and the people are still behaving in the same pattern!
Complaints and cries and blaming Moshe and asking to die ..
It is said: More than it was difficult to get the people out of Egypt – it was difficult to get Egypt out of the people.
And if nothing has changed among the people, even after 40 years, why have not the people of Israel been denied the right to enter the land?
Why was Moses denied the right because of one stumble, because he struck the rock instead of talking to the rock in order for water to come out of it?
But I have yet to find answers that satisfy my mind, and that is a sign for me to delve deeper into the symbolic level of the text.
Rabbi Chaim Vital, a student of the Ari z”l, has an interpretation that delves deep into the hidden meaning in the portion. (My thanks to my longtime teacher R. Ohad Ezrachi, from whom I received Vital’s interpretation).
Vital sees in the rock, the staff and the eating- symbols:
The rock – symbolizes the written Torah. In its obscure and unexplained condition.
The staff – the oral Torah, the authority of the Sages, the power of the mind (male energy). The staff is both a noun and a verb, meaning a to lean toward the right or left, towards Chesed (loving kindness) or towards Din (law).
The beating – symbolizes an argument and a quarrel.
The stream of the water from the rock symbolizes how much the Torah, as ancient but inaccessible wisdom, is available and clarified. The extent to which there is a transfer from the closed and sometimes obscure state of the Torah (like the rock) to a state in which it saturates and enlightens the soul.
The role of Moses in the wilderness was to take the Torah and the water with it. Extract from it so it becomes something that nourishes the people.
The ability to extract meaning from the obscure Torah, at the level of abstraction, is through learning that leaves room for debate and contention. Debate and contention in learning help to extract wisdom from the obscure (at times) Torah.
On a certain level of consciousness, we need this argument to move forward, to move to change something. But this can only reveal a certain layer of the Torah that is relatively external. There are layers in which the mind is not the ultimate tool for understanding things.
After 40 years in the desert, it was time to talk to the rock.
On the intuitive level, “talk to the rock” is a phrase that has clarity, it is not a phrase that needs to be debated or proven to be true.
And here, says Vital, God wanted to reveal to all the people the secrets of the Torah beyond simplification.
And the revelation of the secrets does not come with beatings and violence.
Discovering the secrets of our inwardness, says Vital, is our duty. This is the true doctrine of the secret. As long as we do not learn our own inner selves, we will remain in an argumentative situation that will try to prove, to move things in only one direction. And when we are not connected inward, with our inner selves, we suffer from all kind of illness (physical, economical, political)
It is therefore necessary to speak to the rock, to create a dialogue with ancient wisdom and to touch the inwardness of things.
Similarly, Rabbi Kook says: Do you want to study the secret of Torah? – Study your soul. The secrets of the soul are the secrets of the Torah.
Vital hints that Moses may have doubted whether the people at this point could understand the inwardness, despite the explicit instruction he received to reveal the secrets to the whole people, so he used the beating, and was punished for it
And how can this reflect something relevant to our lives?
Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is — how do I conduct myself in the reality of my life?
In argumentation, aggression, or dialogue, to create blessings?
If I am the ‘well’, and within me the living water, what is the stone that closes it and does not allow the water to “rise“?
How should I treat this stone (the rock) that covers the “secret” that retains the water, and what should I do to divert it and allow the well to fulfill its function and allow the water to flow out of me?
May we all be blessed with the ability to speak to the rock, to produce a flowing, soft dialogue, with our outer reality and with our inner reality, that combines both mind and heart, and may we be blessed and privileged to discover the secrets hidden within us.