This Parsha this week is Parshas Vaaira. In the Parsha the Torah tells us of the first seven plagues that Hashem brought upon Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian people. In each of the first three plagues, G-d told Moses that some physical act that had to be done to bring about the plague. In the first two, (when all the water in Egypt turned into blood and when the country was filled with frogs), the Nile River had to be hit. In the third, (when lice swarmed all over Egypt), the earth had to be hit. However, Moses was not allowed to be the one to smite it: “And G-d told Moses, go tell Aaron to take your staff and spread his hand,/b> over the waters of Egypt,…” (Exodus )
Our Sages ask the obvious and famous question: Why couldn’t Moses himself hit the water? Why did it have to be Aaron who took the staff of Moses and hit the water? They answer that it would not be proper for Moses to hit the water. When Moses was an infant and Pharaoh was killing all Jewish baby boys, his life was saved by the River. He was put in a cradle into the River, then found and adopted by Batya the daughter of Pharaoh. Gratitude demanded that Moses not be the one to now hit the water.
Obviously, this statement begs for an explanation. What does the fact that Moses got saved by the water tell us regarding his behavior to the water? Does water have feelings? Will water get insulted if Moses hits it? Will water feel good if Moses acts with feelings of gratitude? Did water make any sort of decision to help Moses?
Rav Eliyahu Dessler explains that the Torah is teaching us here a great lesson in human nature. Our actions and feelings are driven by more than cold detached intellect. We, human beings, are creatures that have the capacity to use our mind and contemplate; but we are also creatures that have the capacity to do things based on emotion. We are all driven by our emotions. Our feelings can cause us to do things with a power that is beyond description.
If a person feels no gratitude to something from which they had benefit, they are losing their sensitivity. They have lost the deep feelings that Judaism requires of being a person who feels gratitude. This will effect their relationship with others, and even their relationship with G-d. Our Sages sum this up in two famous statements. “Whoever denies the favors of his friend, will eventually deny the favors of Hashem.” Another statement they make is: “If you drink water from a well, don’t throw a stone into it” (Talmud).
We often come into situations in life where we have to gage our action / reaction. We question ourselves: Does what we do really matter? This was the powerful lesson we were taught when Moses was not allowed to hit the water. Everything we do, in any situation, has an effect on us as a human being. What we do in one situation will affect what we do in another. Our deeds do really affect our emotions. There are no situations where what we do just “doesn’t matter”. To truly improve and ultimately become the great being that we can, with a complete and healthy relationship with G-d and with others, we must make sure that our actions are always correct and proper.