Shabbat-Table Talks: Huqat

By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <>

[This weeks Table Talks is dedicated in loving memory of Joel Rishty a"h.]


Value: Controlling Anger. Anger is an emotion that we feel at one point or another in our lives. Learning how to understand anger and control it is important for our children as well as for us. Anger can cause us to say and do things that we do not really mean. At times anger can result in violent reactions. Learning how to express out anger in non-violent ways can help us to use our anger in ways that are actually beneficial to our relationship.

Connection to the Perasha: This week’s perasha contains the story of the events at the place that came to be known as the "Waters of Quarrelling" (Meh Meribah). There, God decreed that Moshe and Aharon would not enter the land because of their actions. The precise nature of Moshe’s transgression is not clear at all. Many Torah commentators have expressed their differing opinions about what the precise transgression was. One commentator, R. Moshe Haim Luzzatto, observed: "Moshe Rabbenu transgressed one sin, and the commentators have heaped upon him thirteen or more sins!" The most well known "transgression" was that Hashem told Moshe to speak to the rock and instead Moshe hit it. This week’s discussion is based on another view of the transgression, that of Rambam. Using Rambam’s explanation we can speak about the emotion of anger.

Text: Numbers 20:2-13

Now there was no water for the community, so they assembled against Moshe and against Aharon; the people quarreled with Moshe, they said, saying: Now would that we had expired when our brothers expired before the presence of the Lord! Now why did you bring the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, to die there, we and our cattle? Now why did you make us go up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place, not a place of seeds and figs, vines and pomegranates—and water (there is) none to drink!

Moshe and Aharon came away from the presence of the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Appointment, and flung themselves upon their faces. The Glory of the Lord was seen by them, and the Lord spoke to Moshe saying: Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aharon your brother; you are to speak to the boulder before their eyes so that it gives forth its water, thus you are to bring out for them water from the boulder, that you may give-drink to the assembly and to their cattle. So Moshe took the staff from before the presence of the Lord, as He had commanded him. And Moshe and Aharon assembled the assembly facing the boulder.

He said to them: Now hear, (you) rebels, from this boulder shall we bring you out water? And Moshe raised his hand and struck the boulder with his staff, twice, so that abundant water came out; and the community and their cattle drank. Now the Lord said to Moshe and to Aharon: because you did not have trust in Me to treat Me as holy before the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore: you (two) shall not bring this assembly into the land that I am giving them! Those were the waters of Quarreling, where the Children of Israel quarreled with the Lord and He was hallowed through them.

Discussion: Why was Moshe punished? (The most likely answer that the children would give is that Moshe hit the rock instead of talking to it. We are actually looking for a different answer, but we must encourage them by acknowledging that some of our great Torah commentators have given this answer.) Say (encouragingly): "Excellent. Did you know that Rashi also gave that explanation? (After pausing for a little while) Say: Some of other commentators have asked questions about this explanation. Can you think of any questions that you would ask Rashi about this explanation? (Give them time to think of some questions. Ramban asked two questions: 1. Why did Hashem tell Moshe to take the staff, if he was not to use it? 2.Why is getting water by hitting a rock any less of a miracle than getting water by speaking to the rock? They both equally make Israel aware of God’s omnipotence.)

Ask: Would you like to hear another answer? Rambam explained that Moshe sinned when he said the words: "Now hear, (you) rebels, from this boulder shall we bring you out water?" Moshe’s sin was that he got angry with the people. The people looked towards him as a model of Hashem’s will. When they saw that he was angry they thought that Hashem was angry with them, when Hashem really was not. Because of Moshe’s greatness, Hashem demanded perfect behavior. Moshe’s anger led him to make a mistake and do something that he should not have done.

Ask: Do you remember a time when you got angry? How does it feel to get angry?

When we get angry we sometimes say things that we do not mean and do things that we do not really want to do. Just like Moshe did. People get the wrong impression of you when you do things out of anger. Did you ever say anything that you did not really mean because you were angry?

When we get angry in what ways can we react? (We can hit, yell, or think about exactly what is bothering us and then speak about that with the person whom we think is responsible.) What’s wrong with hitting and yelling? (It does not really solve the problem and just leads to more hitting and yelling. People can say things they do not mean and do things they do not really want to do.) Why is it better to think about exactly what is bothering us and than speak about it? (Because then we learn what is really bothering us so that we can prevent it in the future.)

Anger is an important gauge of things that are important to us. Anger, properly used, can help us to achieve self-understanding. If you know what got you angry, you can know what is important to you. Try to understand other people’s anger in this way. When someone is angry at you try to think about what it was that struck a chord within him or her. Use the other person’s anger as a means of understanding them and deepening your relationship with them.

We should try to control our expression of anger as much as we can so that it comes out in constructive rather than in hurtful ways.


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