In Parashat Chukat, Moshe Rabeinu commits his biggest mistake, yet in the same Parashah, he shows one of the traits that made him the best leader for the Jews. As the nation arrives at Kadeish, Miriam dies and the water that the Jews were previously drinking in order to live disappears. When the Jews saw that they had no water, “VaYareiv HaAm Im Moshe,” “And the nation quarreled with Moshe” (BeMidbar 20:3). Moshe then loses his opportunity to go into Israel because he strikes a rock after Hashem told him to talk to it (Pasuk 11).
Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch points out that in the following Pasuk, Moshe continues to lead the Jews through the desert without hesitation. After Moshe sins, it would have been understandable if he took a break. After 38 years of traveling towards Eret Yisrael, he is denied entry to the land. Anyone else would be deeply depressed if their life’s dream was taken away in an instant. However, we see in the very next Pasuk that Moshe is leading the same Jews that fought with him over the water to the Promised Land. Later (21:5), the Jews lose their water again, and they once again begin to complain. Rashi (ad loc. s.v. Beilokim UVeMoshe) points out that when the Pasuk says, “VaYidabeir HaAm Beilokim UVeMoshe, Lama Heʼelitanu MiMitzrayim,” “And the nation spoke to Hashem and Moshe: Why did you bring us up from Egypt?” they are equating Moshe and Hashem, which is an insult to Hashem. Both Rav Hirsch and the Ohr HaChaim agree that Moshe was taking orders in the desert from Hashem. The Ohr HaChaim adds that the reason they are punished is not because of equating Hashem with Moshe Rabeinu, but because they were angry at Moshe for agreeing with Hashem’s orders. The Jews were upset that Moshe took them on this difficult route to Israel, as if Hashem directed them on this road simply to torture them. The Jews seem to repeatedly fail and anger Hashem, but that never dissuades Moshe from leading them. When Moshe is told that he will not enter Israel, he could have excused himself for the day or at least begged Hashem for a second chance to enter the land. However, Moshe immediately returns to help the struggling nation. Yet, this demonstration of care is not the most remarkable aspect of Moshe’s personality. What is even more remarkable is that Moshe not only continues on the journey, but does it for the same Jews that are frequently complaining and blaming him for every challenge. Moshe Rabeinu exhibits a selﬂess attitude and unconditional love for the Jewish people. Moshe continues to help them because he knows that no matter what, they are his brothers and Hashem’s chosen people.
Moshe exemplifies a great lesson in the way to treat a fellow Jew. Jews must make every effort to love one another. Rav Moshe Taragin often says that when one goes to Shamayim, he is going to look to his left and see a Charedi Jew and he is going to look to his right and see a Religious Zionist Jew. However, it won’t matter who he was or what denomination of Jew he was, because in the end, Hashem loves every Jew equally.