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The Stick & the Rock: The Rogatchover Reframes the Story

The Day Normal Family Life Was Disrupted

1 hr 51 min

Rabbi Yosef Rozen, the Rogatchover Gaon (1858-1936)

Class Summary:

At last, the great moment had arrived. For forty years, the Jewish People had wandered together through the desert. The older generation had already passed on. Even beloved Miriam was no more. By now, under the leadership of Moses, the young nation of Israel was finally ready to enter the Promised Land. But an incident occurred that would transform the nation's destiny.

The people run out of water. They cry to Moses, who turns to G-d. G-d commands Moses to produce water from a rock miraculously, by speaking to it. Instead, Moses hits the rock twice, which indeed produces water. It is the most subtle and enigmatic ‘sin’ in the entire Torah, yet because of it Moses’ greatest dream is shattered and he is denied entry into the Land of Israel.

What exactly was Moses’ sin? There are dozens of divergent interpretations. The common denominator behind all of them is that somehow this was a rebellion against G-d or a demonstration of an apparent flaw in Moses. But maybe we have to read the story differently?

It was the Rogatchover Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Rosen (1858-1936), who reframes the story completely. Moses’s error consisted of using Aaron’s wooden staff, rather than his own made of rock. As a result, Jewish women did not have a mikvah for a while and peace in the home was effected. The class explores this original insight and shows its parallels in the teachings of Kabablah and Chassidus.


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  • א

    אברהם -2 years ago

    קשב להבין

    בפסוק עצמו כתוב פסוק י״א ויך את הסלע ״במטהו״ ולא עם המטה 

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  • E

    eli -3 years ago

    You say you didn’t understand his reference in shu’t  119, 7 to the  gemara Shabbos 66, a.  it appears to me that he is making a combination/leshitasai of reb Yossi, from the Mishna in mikvaos and the first line on top  says  reb yosey says that a false wooden leg ,if it has an opening at the top which could hold a cloth is tamei.which is like the gemara Shabbos 123,b.  we know that mateh moshe was chakuk with shem hashem, which even if it was from wood, would make it not a pshtoh klei etz, I wonder if he is learning that mateh aharon was also chakuk?then it would also be metameh the mikva  . let me know what you think, ty , elie teitelman

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  • PK

    Pesach Kornreich -4 years ago

    Why not the Almonds?

    I am confused as to why the necessity to prove Aharon's staff had a receptacle. Wasn't the fact that it had almonds growing on it sufficient to make it susceptible to impurity? Even if the staff intrinsically is not susceptible to impurity, surely it is susceptible as either a support ("yad") or protection ("shomer") for the almonds.

    I think the argument against this that at that time the almonds fell off is not valid. Part of the reason it was kept in the Kodesh HaKodashim as proof of Aharon's family's right to the priesthood was that miraculously it constantly had flowers and almonds.

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  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    Aron’s stick

    Beautiful well presented shiur 

    just one point to clarify what is the proof that Aron‘s stick had a קשר בראשו to be מקבל טומאה? 



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    • E

      Eli -5 years ago

      Perhaps the proof that the stick was in a fashion that was mekabel Tumah, is from the very fact that Moshe was punished. In other words the Rogatchover only had to find a hypothesis to explain why Moshe was punished, namely that he used such a stick. The fact that the pesukim support this hypothesis (המטה וכו׳) and Moshe was in fact punished, proves that the stick must have had a Kesher or some form of recepticle, otherwise why would he be punished?

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  • YY

    Y yaffee -6 years ago

    Bs'd. Would the water become for a Mikva after three tefachim of hamshachah? On the ground etc?

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  • ל

    לייבל -7 years ago

    לדעתי העניה, הרב מגיד השיעור, אף שבכללות ביאר את הדברים נכון, לא ירד לעומק דברי הרוגוצ'ובי שציין למראה מקום כאן, ואף התעלם מהמ"מ לדברי הגמ' שבת סו. [- כדבריו בשיעור שלא הבין כוונת הרוגו'ובי שציין לשם.]
    לענ"ד, עיקר ראייתו הוא מדברי המשנה במקוuאות )מקוואות פרק ה' משנה ה') ונוטפים שעשאן זוחלין, סומך אפילו מקל אפילו קנה אפילו זב וזבה יורד וטובל דברי ר' יהודה, ר' יוסי אומר כל דבר שהוא מקבל טומאה אין מזחילין בו. ובפירוש המשניות להרמב"ם כתב שם’ וז"ל: וכבר ידעת שהמקל מקבל טומאה מדרבנן לפי שהוא מפשוטי כלי עץ, וחלק רבי יוסי ואמר לא יסמוך מקל או כל מה שיזדמן כמו שאמר ר' יהודה, אלא דבר שאין מקבל טומאה ואפילו מדרבנן, הוא אשר אם עברו עליו הטפין נעשו זוחלין, והלכה כר' יוסי, עכ"ל. ומבואר מדברי הרמב"ם, וכן ביארו המפרשים דבריו, שפשוטי כלי עץ מקבלים טומאה מדרבנן, והאריכו האחרונים בשיטת הרמב"ם בזה, ויש שכתבו שלא כתב כן הרמב"ם כי אם באותם פשוטי כלי עץ לתשמיש האדם ותשמיש משמשיו (עי' רמב"ם הלכות כלים פ"ד ה"א), וראה מעיני מים (מקואות, סימן ל"ו אות ח') שכתב שקנה הוא בכלל זה. ולכן כתב הרמב"ם שמקבל טומאה מדרבנן (ועי' אבן האזל הל' ביהב"ח פ"א הי"ח ד"ה והנה התוס' כתב לדייק מדעת הרמב"ם שבכה"ג מטמא אפילו מדאורייתא).
    על כל פנים, לענ"ד, לכך היתה כוונת הרוגוצ'ובי, שלביאור הרמב"ם מבואר שמקל מקבל טומאה מדרבנן וממילא פוסל את המקוה.
    ומה שציין אח"כ לשתי הגמרות בשבת, משום שיש סתירה בדין זה, שבדף סו. מבואר שמקל של זקנים טהור מכלום, עיי"ש, ואילו בדף קכג: מבואר שקנה של זיתים מטמא משום שיש לו כלי קיבול, ובודאי היה לו לרוגוצ'ובי ביאור בזה, ואולי נמצא הדבר באחד מכתביו, אבל עיקר הראיה מדברי המשנה במקואות, לפי ביאור הרמב"ם.

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  • L

    levi -7 years ago

    beautiful class.
    Just one point: this statement at the end of 1:16 was slightly mistranslated and misquoted.
    דוכתא דלדידן הוה מומא ולדידהו לאו מומא הוא - he made a mum where its considered a mum for the Yidden to bring on the Mizbeach (regardless who brings the korban, a yid or a goy, since according to halacha there is no difference who brings the korabn). But for the Goyim, in their laws of bringing to Avodah Zara they don't consider it a mum. He made such a mum intentionally so the yidden won't bring it on the Mizbeach, and he will still be able to tell the king that there wasn't any mum on it. Because goyim don't consider it a mum.

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  • E

    Eli -8 years ago

    When you discussed Moshe Rabeinu saying "mayin li basar" The Rebbe explains in mamer Mi mone afar yakov 5718- Moshe is on the level of ayin-Chochma and therefore on the level of Chochma/bitul there's no connection so to say to the level of Basar which is ahava krishpei eish Therefore he says "mayin li basar?" "vi kumt es tzu im". Therefore it needed the mimutza of the zkeinim and aaron like it explain there..

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  • E

    Elie -8 years ago

    Shalom Rabbi J,

    You mention during the rogatchover shiur about a bracha for shalom bayis in davening.

    In fact I have always wondered about the Mishna Eilu Devarim after birchas Hatorah printed in the siddur in the brachos section, it seems the Alter Rebbe added, .. Vhavoas shalom Bein Adam lachaveiro Ubein Ish Leishto....

    In the mishna and in Nusach ashkenaz those 3 words are not there.

    Is there another nusach to the mishna or did the AR just add it on his own and is he allowed to seemingly modify the mIshna within the siddur?

    Yasher Koach,


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  • MSS

    Mach shol Sholom -8 years ago

    What is the meaning according to the Ragetshver ודיברתם אל הסלע if the whole point all along was to hit the rock???

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    • PK

      Pesach Kornreich -4 years ago

      Not an entirely satisfactory answer, but it could be that: While speaking was sufficient to get the water flowing, the staff would still have been necessary to create the 12 (13) channels that flowed to each tribe and/or  the staff was needed to create the mikveh/mikvaot. By taking the wrong staff, not only was the mikveh disqualified, it became necessary to strike the rock in the first place, in a form of one misstep (however inadvertent) leading to a cascade.

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  • C

    Cirel -8 years ago


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    • RYJ

      Rabbi YY Jacobson -8 years ago

      According to the Rogatchover, Moshe was called on to use his own staff, instead he used Aaron's, which disqualified the Mikvah. As a result, he was punished. Of course, this was a result of his humility, and inadvertent.

      As we explained, this is not a classic "punishment" for a willful sin, but rather it was simply a demonstration that Moshe was not meant to go into the land due to his unique and elevated spiritual status.

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  • ב

    בערל -8 years ago

    הוקשה לי במאד מאד: מה מקום לחדש שהמטה של אהרן הי' לו בית קיבול, ולכאורה הי' פשוטי כלי עץ שאינו מקבל טומאה!

    הרגצובי באמת מציין לשבת סו ולשבת קכג כדי להסביר שיטתו בזה ולא הבנתי כלל וכלל איפה מצאנו ע"פ הגמרא שם מקור לומר שמטה אהרן הי' שייך לקבלת טומאה. ולכאורה צ"ע טובא. דהנה בשבת קכג שם מדובר על קנה של זיתים שיש לה באמת כלי קיבול שנעשה לקבלה, כי מקבלים בה שמן ובוחנים בה את טיב השמן. ובשבת סו מוסבר באריכות דמקל של זקנים טהור מכלום, כי הוא מפשוטי כלי עץ וגם אינו טמא טומאת מדרס כי אינו עשוי לשכוב או לישב עליו וגם הסמיכה היא לא בכל גופו. ומביא שם מחלוקת אביי ורבא בנוגע לכלים אחרים ע"ש, וכן בנוגע לעגלה של קטנים. ומה מקום לומר איפוא שמטה אהרן שפרחו עליו שקדים הי' ראוי לקבל טומאה?!

    ובכלל כל הביאור הוא חידוש מבהיל כדרכו בקודש, מקורי בתכלית, באופן שונה מכל עשרות המפרשים.

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  • AN

    abraham niyazov -8 years ago

    brilliant! no other words can better describe the shiur
    2 questions please
    why is there a song al hasela hach,if hitting body is inappropriate for us but speaking is recommended and appropriate?
    if hitting was such a serious issue cause it caused mie meriva why did moshe hit rock the first time they needed water in the begining of the 40 like it says in shemos 17:6 maybe he used his own staff that was made out of sappire,i am assuming,that might have something to do with the answer,
    and why there is it called tzur

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Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • June 21, 2015
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  • 4 Tamuz 5775
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Leilu Nishmat Reb Eliyahu Tzion ben Reb Chananya Niasoff ז"ל.
And in the merit of our partner in Torah Yigal Yisroel ben Sofia שיחיו

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