Children by their nature are “little scientists”, suggested Jean Piaget, learning about their world through constant testing. They test what happens when things fall, or when they draw on the walls with crayons; they test limits, and they test patience.
The biggest mistake a parent can make is to take these tests personally, interpreting them as an affront and an attack on our authority. This is what happens to Moshe in chapter 17. “Why are you fighting with me?” He asks the people. “They’re about to stone me!” He tells God.
But the Torah points out that this test isn’t about Moshe at all, and it isn’t even about God as much as it about the people testing their own insecurity. The question of whether “God is in our midst/in our hearts” is hard to explain as one which expresses doubt concerning God’s abilities to provide water. The people have seen God bring ten miraculous plagues, split the sea, provide food and meat. Why should water be a problem for Him? The people don’t doubt God, they doubt themselves, their own worthiness, their own worth. When children test their parents’ love, what they are really trying to find out is if they deserve to be loved.
To truly answer their question, simply providing the particular item they’re asking for misses the point. God needs to respond in a way that the people can come to believe in themselves, can prove to themselves their own worth. He sends Moshe off to the rock on Mount Horeb, a distance from where the Jews currently are, so that to enjoy the water, they will need to go to it, to work for it.
On the way there, they will face off with Amalek, whom Hasidic thought calls the enemy of doubt. They will find the answer to their question when they lift their eyes to Heaven, commit their hearts to God, and find that God has given them the inner strength to overcome the enemy.
This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. Chapter 17 was Monday. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation
What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il