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The commentators deal with the puzzling question of why Moshe lost his chance to bring the Jews into Israel, just because he hit a rock. The Torah says, יַ֚עַן לֹא־הֶאֱמַנְתֶּ֣ם בִּ֔י לְהַ֨קְדִּישֵׁ֔נִי לְעֵינֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לָכֵ֗ן לֹ֤א תָבִ֙יאוּ֙ אֶת־הַקָּהָ֣ל הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥תִּי לָהֶֽם For you have not believed in Me, to sanctify Me to the eyes of the Sons of Israel; therefore, you will not bring this Nation to the Land which I have given them. (Bamidbar 20;12)

What?! Moshe did not believe in G-d? The Man who spoke to G-d “mouth to mouth” (Bamidbar 12;18), he does not believe in G-d? And why does G-d connect Moshe’s punishment to the nation entering? And why does G-d stress that Israel is the land that G-d gave to the Jewish Nation, specifically in connection with the punishment of Moshe?

The Ibn Ezra lists a few reasons why Moshe was punished so harshly for hitting the rock to bring out its waters instead of speaking to it. (20;8) The last reason he lists is something from the Kadmonim, the ancient Rabbis according to Sod, the secrets of the Torah. It is because what Moshe told the People before hitting the rock. שמעו נא המורים, Listen now, you rebellious ones. (Bamidbar 20;10)

The Shem Mishmuel (at the end of Hukat) explains this secret of the Ibn Ezra and the Kadmonim.  There is a power that Moshe could have used in order to bring out water from the rock. This power is the unity of Yisrael, Knesset Yisrael. In the merit of Knesset Yisrael, Moshe could have drawn water from the rock, as G-d told Moshe that this was His intention, קַ֣ח אֶת־הַמַּטֶּ֗ה וְהַקְהֵ֤ל אֶת־הָעֵדָה֙ Take the staff and gather the community. )Bamidbar 20;8) But Moshe got angry, and he rebuked the Jews by referring to them as rebels. By doing this, Moshe separated himself from Knesset Yisrael. Moshe, being the one who accepted the Torah on behalf of the Nation, was like the soul of Knesset Yisrael, and separating himself from them was removing the soul from Knesset Yisrael. Without the merit of Knesset Yisrael, Moshe needed to use a backup, the miracle of hitting the rock.

This power of Knesset Yisrael is the strongest power G-d created in the world. G-d’s kingship is dependent on it; His monarchy is defined through it. וַיְהִ֥י בִישֻׁר֖וּן מֶ֑לֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף֙ רָ֣אשֵׁי עָ֔ם יַ֖חַד שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃. (Devarim 33;5) The last Mishna in Taanit brings the passukצְאֶ֧נָה ׀ וּֽרְאֶ֛ינָה בְּנ֥וֹת צִיּ֖וֹן בַּמֶּ֣לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֑ה בָּעֲטָרָ֗ה שֶׁעִטְּרָה־לּ֤וֹ אִמּוֹ֙ בְּי֣וֹם חֲתֻנָּת֔וֹ  Go forth, O daughters of Tzion, and behold the King that peace is His, with the crown with which His mother crowned Him on the day of His wedding  (Shir Hashirim 3; 11) In this aspect, out of fondness, G-d refers to Knesset Yisrael as אמו, His Mother, as a nickname for אומתו, His Nation, in that He is dependent on His Nation to bring His Kingdom to the world, to be a place for His Presence in the world. He is dependent on Knesset Yisrael to glorify His Name in the world and to make Him King. (Midrash Zutah; also see Rashi Shir Hashirim)

Being a part of Knesset Yisrael is the power behind our prayers. As the Ariza”l says, we should accept upon ourselves to love each and every Jew, before we start our prayers. This prayer of being a part of Knesset Yisrael is found in many Siddurim before Shacharit prayers. All of our prayers are about praying for Knesset Yisrael. All of our prayers are about Knesset Yisrael crowning G-d.  Even when we accept G-d’s Oneness on ourselves, we do so by saying ה’ אלוקינו – our G-d. For a Knesset Yisrael Jew is a much greater Jew than a lone Jew.

When G-d told Moshe that he did something wrong, He was precise in how He said it. For you have not believed in Me to sanctify Me to the eyes of the Sons of Israel, therefore you will not bring this Nation to the Land which I have given them. For not utilizing the power of Knesset Yisrael, for not taking the opportunity to sanctify G-d’s Name through it, Moshe could not enter Eretz Yisrael. Moshe missed the opportunity to reveal the power of Knesset Yisrael. That even if, as individuals, they were not worthy, but as Knesset Yisrael, Hashem would give them even what they do not deserve. Moshe missed the opportunity to show, to demonstrate that G-d wants His Name to be sanctified through the unity of Knesset Yisrael, even if they are rebels.

What is Knesset Yisrael, anyway? What makes us so strong? When did we officially come into reality as a united people?

The first time we came together as a united people was on the day G-d married His People by giving them the Torah at Har Sinai as mentioned in Shir Hashirim above,  וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר. And Yisrael encamped (singular form) opposite the mountain.  What unifies us is accepting G-d as King, accepting the Torah. This is why Moshe, the one who received the Torah for us, is the soul of Knesset Yisrael. Our oneness is through accepting G-d’s monarchy, as we pray on Minha Shabbat, אתה אחד ושמך אחד ומי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ. You are one, and Your Name is one, and who is like Your Nation Yisrael, One Nation in the Land.

We are meant to be a diverse nation of 600,000 souls who all share but one goal: Crowning G-d. The oneness of our nation is not that we do not have individuals, but that the individuals are all to crown G-d as King, through accepting the Torah, through accepting G-d’s Will in how to live each and every unique life of our Nation. One of the 48 ways to accept the Torah listed in the Mishna in Avot is, נושא בעול עם חבירו, to carry your friend’s “yoke” along with him.  Because G-d’s Kingdom is dependent on His Nation as a whole crowning Him as king, not on a lone servant.

Although the gentiles have concepts of unity, their brand of unity has nothing to do with the unity of Knesset Yisrael. Parashat Hukat begins with the law, אָדָ֖ם כִּֽי־יָמ֣וּת בְּאֹ֑הֶל A person, when he will die in a tent, … all those things and people who are under the same roof become impure, as well. (19;14) R Shimon Bar Yochai deducts from this passuk, that the deceased gentile bodies do not cause impurity to those who are under the same roof, for they are not called אדם, a person.)Yevamot 61a)

In the notorious trial of the Mendel Beilis blood libel, in year 1913, Mendel was under false accusation that he killed a Christian child, and that he needed its blood to bake Matzot. In one of the claims against Mendel, the prosecutor brought this piece of Talmud as proof to his theory that Jews are racists. That Jews only refer to Jews as אדם, as people. This would imply, that gentiles are not even אדם, not even considered people.

The defendant Oscar Grozenberg, under the direction of R’ Maazeh, countered this racial criticism against our Talmud in the following manner. The word Adam is utterly unique: both “man”, in singular form, and “man”, in plural form, are referred to as אדם. This is very different from the other Hebrew word for man, איש, which, in its plural form, is אנשים. But the word אדם   is different. This is the reason why the Torah used specifically the word אדם  regarding impurity in the tent with the dead… To teach that only the type of people who see themselves not as singular, but as part of a nation, can be called אדם. Only the Jews are that nation, as evidenced by the unity at the time among our people during the Beilis blood libel.  We are called אדם, because we all have inside us a part of Adam Harishon’s responsibility to crown G-d as King. That is what makes us one.

So how do we become one? How do we tap into the power of Knesset Yisrael?

Here are the Selfie Steps. The self-help steps that make us one. The self-help steps that will bring Mashiach. Amen.

  1. Objectivity, not Subjectivity. Looking at the world and how to make it better, not just how you become better. It is not only about you. It is about G-d, His world, and His being King.
  2. Feeling pain of other Jews, no matter their level of observance, where they are in the world or what their background is.  Visiting the sick, being there for others in their time of pain, stress or difficulty etc. (Please see Rashi Bamidbar 20;25)
  3. Putting G-d’s Will before our own will. Spirituality over Physicality. Drive for physicality separates us. Spirituality unites us.
  4. Loving Jews for no reason at all.
  5. Praying for the nation as a whole.

About the author, Yosef

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