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We read in Parashat Vaeira of the miracles Aaron performed before Pharoah, with his staff.

We read in Parashat Beshalach of a different staff ‘the staff of G-d’, which Moshe held, in the battle against Amalek. The Torah relates that Moshe does not take part himself, in this battle, instead charging Joshua with this: (17:5-6) saying:’Choose people for us, and go do battle with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of G-d in my hand; Joshua did as Moshe said to him, to do battle with Amalek; and Moshe, Aaron and Hur ascended to the top of the hill.’

Yet we do not read that Moshe used this staff, but rather, that his part was to raise his hands heaven-wards, to indicate to the people, to put their trust in Hashem, and not in the hands of man- not even of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Rav Yosef Salant asks:’What was the purpose of Moshe taking this staff with him to the top of the hill, as seemingly he did not perform any act with it?’.

The Abarbanel posits:’Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to the top of the hill, with the ‘staff of G-d’ in his hands, like a king whose sceptre of authority is in his hand; and as he raised his hand waving the staff upwards, as if saying: ‘Be strong and have courage’, the fighters, under the command of Joshua, would prevail; when he lowered his hand, being unable to keep waving it upwards, Amalek prevailed.

‘This is the known custom of kingsin their battles, to spur their warriors on, in their battle.’

With the greatest respect to the Abarbanel, this does not find any support in the text, as the hands in themselves, play a critical role,with no mention of using the staff in the manner hesuggests.

Indeed, in my humble opinion, Rav Yosef Salant provides a satisfying answer to the question he raised, expounding:’We read earlier in our Parasha, that the people’s emunah was imperfect, as Hashem states, they ‘tested’ Hashem, saying: ‘Is Hashem among us or not?’.

‘This despite all the miracles Hashem performed to their eyes when taking them out of Egypt, and the chesed He did for them, when He sheltered them under the Clouds of Glory, and sent them the manna, to feed them; and yet, after after all of this, they were still lacking in their emunah, thinking that perhaps all of this Moshe perfomed by the wondrous powers of sorcery contained in his staff, extending even to changing Nature.

‘We find evidence of this, in that before the Manna descended, Bnei Israel complained against Moshe and Aaron, accusing them that THEY took them out of Egypt. We therefore read that, shortly before the arrival of Amalek, the people turn on Moshe, saying:’Give us water that we may drink’; to which Moshe replied:’Why do you contend with me? Why do you test Hashem?; to which the people replied:’Why is this that YOU have brought us up from Egypt to kill’ us, ‘through thirst’.

‘To remove this thought from their minds, that the miracles were performed by Moshe‘s staff, Hashem brought Amalek to battle against Bnei Israel, in a battle of changing fortunes, their success, or failure, depending on the level of their closeness and cleaving to Hashem.

‘Moshe, who understood this, therefore charged Joshua with leading Bnei Israel in the battle, saying:’As I must remove myself and my staff, to the top of the mountain, so that you should not also say now, that I am the victor; and, also, that the Staff of G-d I shall not transfer to another person, lest you say that it is the performer of the miracle.

‘Thus, you will see that your success is dependent solely on your prayers, your repentance and the subjugation of your hearts, to Hashem.

‘Thereby you will learn that, only in this way, will you defeat your enemies.

‘And, as we then read, the people indeed saw this to their very eyes.’

The Kli Yakar expounds the tragic events at Mei Meriba, in the same way.

We read in Parashat Chukat (20:7-14):’Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: ‘Take the staff and gather together the people..and speak to the rock before their eyes that it should give you its waters.’.

Asks the Kli Yakar:’Since Hashem commanded Moshe to speak to the rock, why was he commanded to ‘Take the staff’?, AND what was his transgression?

He answers:’His transgression was, that we found at the Splitting of the Sea, Moshe was commanded:(14:16)’Lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the sea and it will split’- your ‘hand’, not ‘your staff’.

‘The people there saw there, that Moshe had removed the staff from usage, so that the people should not err, to think that the miracle was due to the staff.

‘This is why we then read:’’And Bnei Israel saw the mighty hand of Hashem’- that this miracle was not performed by the staff, but by hand, and they therefore ‘believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant’.

‘Since the Torah relates that they THEN believed, we can deduce that till then they had doubts, as there was room to think that Moshe performed the miracles.

‘Now, many years having passed since the miracles in Egypt and the parting of the Sea, the new generation presumed that, like the plagues in Egypt involved the use of a staff, so too must the splitting of the Sea; that this was not the work of Hashem, but of the magic staff of Moshe.

‘Alas, here Moshe Rabbeinu, having been aggravated by the noisome people, did the opposite of what occurred at the splitting of the Sea, as there he ‘lifted his staff’- removing it from action- ‘and stretched out his hand’, which led the people to ‘believe in Hashem’, now he did the opposite:’

He lifted his hand and struck with his staff’- and thereby led to reinforcing the doubts of the peoole, and the lack of emunah that they had had before the splitting of the Sea.

‘This is why the Torah relates that he and Aaron were punished, יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני: because they ‘caused’ the people ‘not to believe’.

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.