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Water from a Stone

Topic: Well Being | Posted:June 12, 2013

The portion of Chukat begins zot Chukat haTorah, which literally translated means, “this is the law of the Torah. “ Onkelos, the great translator of the Torah from its original Hebrew into Aramaic, tells us that the words Chukat haTorah in Aramaic are translated as gzeira te’orayta; the word gzeira comes from the words “to cut away.” Therefore, one of the great gifts that is given to us on this Shabbat is the power to “cut away” pain, and to bring miracles into our own lives and the lives of others.

But, how do we do that? By ultimately coming to a place where our words – without even having to pray or make a spiritual connection - heal, bring blessings, and awaken miracles.

The Gemara in Brachot, the Talmud asks, why did so many miracles happen all the time in previous generations? Why, in our generation, are there fewer miracles - or at least, why are we able to manifest fewer miracles today than in years past? There is one answer given. The kabbalists teach us in the Talmud that the reason previous generations were able to create miracles simply with the words of their mouth, is because they were masur garmayhu – which means they were willing to give up their lives so that somebody else could have a miracle, healing, or sustenance.

That’s the only difference. The previous generations were able to create miracles not because they were more spiritual than us, had more wisdom than us, or were more connected to the Creator than us, but only because they were willing to give themselves up to bring those blessings to others.

There’s a really beautiful section from the Noam Elimelech, Elimelech of Lizhensk, that pertains to this understanding with regards to Moses in the portion of Chukat.

Miriam, Moses’ sister, passes away. At that time, the Israelites had the Well of Miriam that followed them throughout the desert, which is what they drank from. So when she passes away there is no more water, and unfortunately, as they often do, the Israelites complained - we are thirsty, we don’t know where we are going to get our water to drink.

The Creator comes to Moses and Aaron and tells them, basically, to go to a stone, speak to it, and it will bring water for the Israelites. The Creator also tells Moses to bring his staff with him. They go to the stone and Moses hits it twice and a tremendous amount of water flows out of it; however, they do not speak to it, as was God’s commandment.

If you read the story literally, Moses made a pretty straight forward mistake. God tells him speak to the stone, but Moses hits the stone twice instead. The Creator then says to Moses and Aaron, ya’an lo he’emantem bi lehakdisheni, meaning, because you did not trust in Me, you will not lead this nation into the Land of Israel.

The Noam Elimelech points out that it says, vayetzu mayim rabim, great water flowed out of the stone. So it makes no sense that Moses was punished at this instance, because if what Moses did was wrong, why would the Creator give the miracle of the water?

Noam Elimelech explains that a righteous person, a person who’s truly connected to the Light of the Creator, is a person who is willing to give up his own connection so that another person can have it. A righteous person, even if he knows that he has to go to the darkest place in order to assist someone, will do it, because his singular desire is to do whatever it takes to help another person - even if it comes at his own spiritual expense. He is willing to go to hell to elevate another person. He is willing to fall if it will lift up another person. And this is what Moses was doing here, as we will see.

In this portion, with regards to the stone, it is not simply talking about a stone and water flowing from it. It is talking about opening up channels of blessing for the Israelites at that time. Moses knew that he had the power to open up the greatest Light for the Israelites by simply talking. He was on such a level that he could create a miracle with his words. He had the power to speak to a stone, change its nature, and have water flow out.

A righteous person, Elimelech of Lizhensk tells us, is only able to create miracles depending on how much the receiver of that miracle has certainty in him to create it.

And so, while there were some Israelites who had certainty in Moses’s power to bring miracles, there were many others who didn’t. If Moses had opened up this channel of water and blessings with his words, only those who had certainty in his ability to create that miracle would have been able to receive that water and those blessings.

Therefore, Moses had a problem - should he keep himself elevated and take care only of those who were also elevated by speaking to the stone and awakening the miracle? Or, should he fall by taking the staff and hitting the stone - a physical action? Because for those who don’t believe, seeing something physical makes it believable to them. This is why Moses decided to hit the stone, so they would believe; it would make more sense to them this way when water flows out.

Moses knew he had to do what’s called an averah; he had to fall spiritually in order to elevate others spiritually. He had to push himself down in order to assist others. Moses did not want to create miracles and blessings just for the people who were elevated. He wanted to give goodness to as many people as possible, even though it meant his falling, and even though he knew it meant that in this incarnation he would not be able to elevate into the Land of Israel.

Moses accepted that pain knowing it meant that a few more people would have the ability to receive Light. And therefore, Moses changes the commandment. The Creator tells Moses to keep himself elevated and give the Light to those who deserve it and have certainty. But, Moses says, I can’t. I can’t keep myself so elevated when I see there will be those, because of their own doubt, who won’t be able to partake of it.

This is why Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk tells us that the Creator accepted Moses, saying, Moses, if this is your choice I’ll agree with you, and so water comes out and everybody is able to drink from it.

During this week, and always, we need to remember these words of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk: veyikabel alav af lihiyot begehenom avurav - accept upon yourself even to be in hell, even to be in pain, even to be in darkness, to do good for another person, Ki kol teshukato lehetivam - because all your desire is to do good for another person.

We are given an amazing opening on this Shabbat to have the great power to bring miracles for others. But we have to have this understanding and begin living in this way in order to be able to create miracles with our words.

We all think we are good people if we help another, but that’s not being connected to the Light of the Creator. What separates a person who’s connected to the Light of the Creator and all the other spiritual people in the world? By how much you are willing to fall, how much you are willing to be in pain, how much you are willing to give up of yourself to elevate another person.

The only way the previous generations were able to bring miracles at the snap of a finger was not because they were more spiritual, more connected, or had more power with their prayers. It was simply because they were willing to give more of themselves up. Every single one of us has to grow in that way, and this is what’s given to us on this Shabbat. May we merit to understand it, begin receiving it, and more importantly, to grow to the ultimate level of Moses.

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