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Fallen Angels

15/06/13 15:47:50


R Pesach Siegel

Parshas Chukas - 5773


In this week's parshah Moshe and Aharon are told that they will not be the ones to bring the Bnei Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel.[1]


They stand accused of failing to properly sanctify the name of Hashem.


The Bnei Yisroel were at the end of their travels through the desert. Their physical needs were provided for in a miraculous manner for the past forty years. Manna fell from the heavens, their clothing grew with them and didn't wear out. In the merit of Miriam a stone produced water for the entire nation. At her passing the flow of water ceased.


The Bnei Yisroel accused Moshe and Aharon of bringing them to the desert, inevitably, to perish. For what purpose did they leave Mitzrayim? They longed for Eretz Yisroel, and doubted whether they would actually enter the land.


Moshe and Aharon were commanded to take Moshe's staff, gather the nation, and speak to the rock. It would then give forth of its waters.


They gathered the Bnei Yisroel in front of the rock and rebuked them, "Listen rebellious ones, from this rock we will bring forth for you water."[2]


Moshe proceeded to strike the rock twice, water flowed forth in abundance.


Moshe and Aharon sinned.


The commentaries differ in their understanding of this sin.


Rashi comments that Moshe was commanded to speak to the rock. Instead, he hit the rock.


The Rambam explains that the fault was to be found in Moshe's reaction. He allowed himself to be provoked to anger.[3]


The Ramban questions Rashi's view. Hashem instructed Moshe to take his staff. It is clear that Hashem  meant for Moshe to strike the rock. The Ramban also differs with the Rambam. Moshe Rabinu’s words were not spoken out of anger. His harsh words to the Jewish people were a rebuke for their lack of faith in Hashem.[4]


The Ramban also questions Aharon's role in the affair. Not once, in his entire life, did Aharon HaKohen ever allow himself to come to anger. In addition, Aharon was not the one who hit the rock. Why then, is Aharon included in Moshe's punishment?


The Ramban quotes the words of Rabbeinu Chananel. Moshe and Aharon are faulted for saying to the nation "From this rock "We" will bring forth for you water."


Forty years previously, Moshe assembled the Bnei Yisroel. In a grand assemblage, in the presence of the elders, Hashem caused a heavenly cloud to descend on the rock. Moshe struck the rock and water flowed from it. It was evident that Hashem directly wrought this miracle.


For the second time the Bnei Yisroel stand together awaiting a miracle. For Moshe and Aharon to proclaim that "We" will bring forth water from this rock is deemed inappropriate. It conveys the impression that they are the ones producing the water.


It is for this reason that Moshe and Aharon are equally faulted. Both of them were responsible for this pronouncement.




Is it conceivable that Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon HaKohen actually meant that it is they who will be bringing forth the water from the rock?


Why did they express themesleves in this manner only the second time that water was to be brought forth?


They were punished by not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel. Why is not entering Eretz Yisroel a fit punishment for what Moshe and Aharon did?




Let us turn back the pages of history to find a parallel occurrence. In Parshas Vayeira, the Torah relates how heavenly angels were sent upon Earth to save Lot, the nephew of Avrohom Aveinu. They hastened him to leave Sodom, the city of his residence. "We are about to destroy this city", they said.[5] This is a falsehood. The angels are not destroying the city, G-d is. The Medrash tells us that as a result of their using the word "We", they were doomed to remain on Earth for 138 years.[6]


One hundred and thirty eight years later, Yaakov Aveinu dreamt. He saw angels going up a ladder and coming down a ladder. The medrash points out that the order should be reversed. First angels must descend from heaven. The medrash explains, the angels that Yaakov saw in his dream were the same ones who served as G-d’s emissaries to Sodom. They were exiled on Earth and ascended the ladder to return to shamayim. Only then, were they sent on a new mission, to accompany Yaakov, and they went down the ladder.[7]

The entire fabric of an angel’s  being is that he is made up of "tzivuy Hashem" - the word of G-d. He has no will of his own. Hashem's wish is his wish. How is it possible for a malach to take credit or initiative for a mission he is sent upon?


Perhaps we can understand this by focusing on the particular form of these malachim. They were sent in the guise of men. Even Avrohom Aveinu was unable, at first, to pierce their disguise. One of the prime functions of a guf (a body) is to mask the spirituality that a human being is composed of. Man has the appearance of being independant and self sufficient. This facade enables bechira - free will. If we would be privy to what our true selves and makeup are, we would be incapable of free will.


We, therefore, have the tendency to take sole credit for our successes.


A malach who possesses a guf is not the same as one with no guf. The actions of a malach with a guf have the appearance of being his own. Hence, that is the manner in which he expressess himself. His mission is to impersonate a being with a guf. Thus, his mission is to speak as if he has free will. In the case of the angels of Sodom, their task was to express themselves as if they were personally destroying the city.[8]


Hashem wished to demonstrate, thorugh his angels, what the fate is of one who denies his connection with the Creator.


One who expresses himself in such a fashion is no longer fit to return to shamayim. In shamayim the roots of all things are clear. Everything is dependant on Hashem for its very existence.


Yaakov's dream was the dream of the Beis HaMikdash. His task on this world is to forge a nation that would take the physicality of this world and reunite it to its roots. And by doing so, to see past the misrepresentation of the guf. The guf, in reality, is not a portion apart from its creator. It is part of a grand scheme to extend the honor of Hashem upon all of creation.


(Perhaps this is why the malachim were exiled for 138 years. The numerical value of the word chelek is 138. The word chelek means “a portion”).


Yaakov Avenu learned the lesson of these angels. At once he began the process of setting the foundation of the Beis HaMikdash in this world. The malachim returned to the heavens. These same malachim are sent down to accompany Yaakov on the continuation of his mission.


From this we can glean an understanding into the punishment of Moshe and Aharon.


Moshe and Aharon’s intentions were proper. When they said the words, "From this rock "We" will bring forth for you water", they meant that they are but vessels in the hands of G-d. But that is not the impression that they conveyed. Their words were open to misinterpretation. They bear responsibility for this ill choice of words.


The level of connection that the leaders of Klal Yisroel have with HaKodesh Baruch Hu is dependant on the spiritual level of their flock. During the forty years the Jews wandered through the desert, they were under a ban of cherem – excommunication. Moshe Rabeinu was included in this ban and went without prophetic vision the entire period.[9]


It is perhaps this state of being that led Moshe and Aharon to express themselves improperly. Their relationship with HaKodesh Baruch Hu upon leaving the land of Egypt would never allow them to express themselves in such a fashion, as if to deny G-d’s role in the miracles He had wrought. Only after 40 years of leading a nation that was distanced from Hashem were they capable of such a lapse.


Eretz Yisroel is the parallel on this Earth of the shamayim. It is the realm where G-d's presence is clearly apparent. It is the place of the Beis HaMikdash. One who resides in Eretz Yisroel and lives there in true appeciation of the spiritual gifts of the land, will ultimately undergo a metamorphasis. The physical will become less and less evident. One will be transformed into a primarily spiritual being.[10]


The angels in the time of Avrohom Avenu were not worthy to return to heaven for their adoption of the human trait that caused them to say, “We are destroying this place.” So too, Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon HaKohen were confined to remain in the desert. It is not yet the time for them to enter the heaven-like Land of Israel.[11]


The time will come, the third and final Beis HaMikdash will be built. Moshe and Aharon will arise and lead their nation into Eretz Yisroel.[12]


[1] Parshas Chukas, perek 20, posuk 12

[2] Parshas Chukas, perek 20, posuk 10

[3] Shmoneh Perakim LaRambam, perek 4

[4] Parshas Chukas, perek 20, posuk 8

[5] Parshas VaYeira, perek 19, posuk 22

[6] Breishis Rabbah, parshah 50, piska 9

[7] Breishis Rabbah, parshah 68, piska 12 

[8] Rav Moshe Shapiro - When angels are seen to transgress the word of G-d it is to be understood as part of their mission to do so.

[9] Rashi, Parshas VaYikra, perek 1, posuk 1

[10] Sefer HaKuzari, ma’amar 2

[11] The Baal HaTurim comments on the verse, "Lachen  lo saviyu es hakahal hazeh el ha’aretz."  The gematria of the word lachen is 100, which is the same as the words mida b'mida.

[12] Medrash Rabbah, Bamidbar, parshah 19, piska 13

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781