גם בי התאנף ה' בגללכם לאמר גם אתה לא תבא שם, “Because of you (Bnai Yisrael), Hashem became angry at me (Moshe), saying, ‘You too will not enter Eretz Yisrael’” (1:37).
Here, Moshe is rebuking Bnai Yisrael for the sin of the Meraglim. We learn that Moshe was not allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael because he hit the rock atמי מריבה . According to this Pasuk, however, he attributes the incident of the spies, an incident that occurred 38 years earlier, to his not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. What, then, is the connection between ,מי מריבה the Meraglim, and Moshe’s punishment?
Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, lists some of the ridiculous complaints Moshe was bombarded with: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” “If we had only died in Egypt,” and “Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” The nature of a person is such that no matter how high his spiritual level, the environment around him will eventually influence him. Rav Schwab says that after forty years of leading Bnai Yisrael, Moshe Rabbeinu did act not on Hashem’s command and hit the rock. In other words, Moshe is telling Bnai Yisrael that the years of complaints and rebellion finally caused him to lose control, thus resulting in his punishment. (Lest you think this was an overly harsh punishment, it should be noted that Jewish leaders are judged by extremely high standards. No matter how much Chesed a person has performed, no matter how much Tzedaka a person has given, no matter how great a Talmid Chacham he may be, if he is caught stealing even one penny from the charity box, his reputation is ruined.) Contrast this standard to the standards of our political leaders. While we strive for new heights, they, without rebuke, punishment, or Hirhurei Teshuva, are defining new lows.
It is cliché, but it is true: if you play with tar, it will stick. The Rambam teaches us that a Tzaddik put in the company of Reshaim long enough will himself turn into a Rasha. If Moshe Rabbeinu, our greatest leader, could be so affected by the people in the desert, the greatest of all generations, imagine how careful we must be.