Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I am with you


In Parshat Beshalach, as the Jews first begin their journey from Egypt to Israel, they run out of water. HaShem tells Moshe to go out to a stone, and strike the stone. As part of HaShem's instructions, HaShem says, "Behold, I will be standing in front of you, by the stone."

The Midrash Tanchuma comments, "Gd said to him: Wherever you find the mark of the feet of Man, I will be there in front of you."

(Midrash Tanchuma, Beshalach 22)

Have a great day,


  1. What is "mark of the feet of Man"? Does "Man" with an upper case M mean "humankind"? Does this mean that HaShem is present wherever there are manifestations of humankind, whether for good or evil? Why do we need to be told this--isn't it basically accepted that HaShem is omnipresent (i.e. HaShem is with us in bad times as well as good)? Perhaps the Midrash is simply reinforcing the reality of HaShem's ubiquity.

  2. I thought that HaShem told Moshe to raise his arms in front of the stone and the stone would produce water. Didn't he strike the stone instead, because for a moment he was overwhelmed by a sense of power, and wanted to "show off" a bit, and HaShem later punished him for that? This is what I learned growing up...

  3. Anonymous-
    "Humankind," yes. As I understand it, the passage is saying that wherever people go, HaShem is there as well, with them. In other words: Yes, this is reinforcing the reality of HaShem's ubiquity, as you put it.

    Thanks for commenting. A couple of notes:
    1) The scene with the stone actually occurs twice in the Torah, once in the Jews' first year in the desert (Parshat B'shalach) and once in their last year in the desert (Parshat Chukat). In the first one Moshe is told to hit the stone, and he does. In the second one Moshe is told to "take the staff and talk to the stone," and he hits it. It's the second time that Moshe is condemned by Gd.
    2) In terms of how Moshe erred - this is not clear at all. The Torah actually presents different statements in different places about why Moshe cannot enter Israel, and the commentators work to understand the different passages and their messages. I taught a class on this in Rhode Island some 8 or 9 years ago, and a summary of the class is on-line here.

  4. Thank you Rabbi -- I will check out the site.