For the week of June 30, 2001 / 9 Tammuz 5761
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 19:1 - 22:1
Haftarah: Judges 11:1-33

No Excuse

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them. (Bemidbar / Numbers 20:12,13).

I don't think we can fully understand what it meant to Moses to hear God's reaction to what happened here. After all he had gone through. He didn't want to go back to Egypt in the first place. Yet God prevailed upon him, and he faced what was probably one of the most difficult tasks that anyone in the history of the world has had to face.

Last week we looked at how Moses dealt with the constant challenges. Over and over again he looked to God for wisdom and help. It didn't matter what the problem was - Pharaoh's arrogance, the people's unbelief and grumbling, no food, no water, plagues, enemies, whatever it was, Moses went back to God, who helped him every time.

I don't know what made this time different. Again the people had no water. Again they complained. Again they said it would have been better to have stayed in Egypt.

Maybe you think that Moses should have been used to this by now. If you do, then maybe you have never worked with people. It is amazing that Moses didn't lose it before this point.

It is difficult to know exactly what it was that Moses did that disqualified him from entering the Promised Land. Many people think it was that he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. I tend to think that it was how he spoke to the people (See last year's TorahByte).

Whatever the exact reason, God said it was because he and Aaron did not trust God enough to honor him as holy before the people. Moses reacted to the people's complaining and did not do as he was supposed to. His actions were serious enough to disqualify him from entering the Land.

But was not Moses' reaction understandable? Could he not be excused due to the difficult circumstances? I guess not.

There is a basic misunderstanding we have regarding reasons and excuses. It was a counselor of mine many years ago that taught me this. We often think the reasons for our actions release us from their consequences. For example you may be driving down the road, and due to a distraction you go through a red light without stopping. The distraction may have happened due to your concern for road safety. A police officer stops you and proceeds to give you a fine for the infraction. In your defense you tell the officer why it was that you did not stop at the red light. He listens patiently to your story, but says, "That is a reason, not an excuse."

In our attempt to avoid the consequences of our actions, we often grasp for the reason behind them. Understanding what it was that led to something may be helpful, but does not excuse us from having to deal with it.

I think we should feel for Moses, realizing that we would have likely done the same thing. He was under incredible pressure. But he did do wrong and had to face the consequences. That is how God saw it.

Our confusion over reasons and excuses has affected our legal system. People are excused from dealing with their crimes because of this or that reason. We no longer understand that we need to take responsibility for our actions regardless of the reasons behind these actions.

We often do the same thing in our relationships. We want people to accept our behavior because of what influenced us to behave that way.

But wrong is wrong. The sooner we accept that we need to take responsibility for our behavior regardless of the reasons, the better we all will be.

Comments? Please e-mail:

E-mail this TorahBytes to someone? Click here

Subscribe? To have TorahBytes e-mailed to you weekly
enter your e-mail address and press Subscribe

[ More TorahBytes ]  [  TorahBytes Home ]