As Torah Jews, we are a dignified nation. This is not something that has to be preached to us; it is us. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is a loving Father, Who is always willing to forgive. But when certain lines are crossed, the Torah teaches us, we have to take responsibility for that. In this week’s parshah, after bnei Yisrael brought a litany of complaints before him, Moshe Rabbeinu replied: “Listen here, hamorim, the rebels.” And Hashem stood up to the defense of the nation. According to the Rambam, the grave punishment he received in not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael was because he became angry and excoriated them (which in turn led the Yidden to believe that Hashem was angry at them, which was not the case).
The Torah is teaching us, “You’re the responsible adult here. Even if the kids are fighting, even if they’re complaining, we don’t respond with anger.” Instead of hitting the rock, speak to it.
Here, at this watershed moment, writes Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch, starts a new phase in Torah. Until bnei Yisrael reached the border of Eretz Yisrael, they were showered with open miracles from the hand of Hashem. Now, a new chapter begins for them: where the miracles will continue to unfold, but they will be hidden miracles. From now on, Hashem’s doing will be concealed. This last miracle that the nation experienced was symbolic, writes Rav Hirsch, to the transition that was about to take place. In the past, Moshe would use his staff to orchestrate the nissim. From now on, it would be through speech. This is the vessel for miracles we have until today—our power of speech. With words, we have the koach to extract water from the stone.
What did Hashem instruct Moshe to do when the water wouldn’t come? When nothing happens, Hashem said, learn one halachah. Share one dvar Torah. You can’t know what fountains of blessing you bring forth with one word of Torah. With our mouth, we have the koach to bring forth blessings, dear sisters. Not only do we have the ability to refrain from name-calling, from using derogatory terms to name Hashem’s creations, but also to bring light into the hearts of His children.
Through our speech, we can not only build our own children, or lift the spirit of our spouse. Through our speech, we can impact the lives of others, too. This brings us to understand a beautiful reason for the juxtaposition of the petirah of Miriam and the parah adumah, the red heifer. What’s the connection between these two events? We know that one of the ta’amim for the commandment of parah adumah was so that “the mother would come to clean up her child’s excrement.” But, notes the Aish Kodesh, the red heifer is not the mother of the golden scalf that the Yidden fashioned.