Eternal truths will be neither true nor eternal unless they have fresh meaning for every new social situation. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
There is a great deal of Rabbinic discussion about Moses’ sin. The Torah states in black in white that Moses and Aaron committed a grave error during the episode when the nation of Israel cried out for water. God instructed Moses to take his staff and speak to the rock. Moses hits the rock and water comes gushing out. After this, God castigates Moses and Aaron for their misstep, though the exact sin is not clearly spelled out.
Rabbinic commentators supply a plethora of explanations for what the actual sin may have been. The Chidushei HaRim on Numbers 20:12 gives a preamble as to how we can have an ongoing evolution of such commentaries. He asks, how could later generations shed light on a subject which earlier and greater sages already weighed in on? What gives later and even modern commentators the right to have such gall, such chutzpah, as to give their opinions on biblical texts that great and venerable commentators have already reviewed and addressed?
The Chidushei HaRim describes how in every generation new Torah explanations are discovered and revealed as per the needs of that generation, yet that remain true to both the written text and the oral tradition. He tells how in the generation of Rabbi Akiva there were elucidations of the Torah that were revealed that weren’t even revealed in the time of Moses. He further elaborates that in the time of Rabbi Akiva the need was very great as opposed to in the time of Moses. And that since the time of Rabbi Akiva the need has increased even further, hence the ongoing and expanding plethora of Torah elucidations that has evolved into a massive and ever-growing corpus of knowledge, insight, and guidance.
Indeed, one of the prime directives of these Torah elucidations is to guide us. By delving more and more into the Torah we’re able to tease out new insights and greater guidance during turbulent and confusing times. As the world evolves, as our existential panorama shifts in unexpected and perhaps historic ways, we need to find fresh perspectives from veritable, eternal, and steadfast sources.
May we drink deeply from the refreshing and always-relevant waters of the Torah.
To the Johannesburg Jewish community for their incredible hospitality and in particular to the Chipkin and Glassman families.