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As a kid I learned that Moshe wasn't allowed to hit the water because it saved him when he was a child and he had to show hakaras hatov (similar answer for why he couldn't hit the sand that saved him by hiding the body of the mitzri he killed). But the water didn't save him, the little basket, the Egyptian lady who yanked him out or even the sister who watched him might have saved him, the water didn't do anything. If someone was in a car accident an survived unharmed they would say the seat belt saved them, not the road. How can we make sense of this ma'amar chazal?

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It may be more helpful if you were more specific. – Seth J Oct 12 '12 at 16:58
@SethJ more specific about what? – user1668 Oct 12 '12 at 17:25
#irony......... – Seth J Oct 12 '12 at 17:39
I always kind of understood that it was in particular the reeds (סוף) that he was thankful to because they hid the basket. – Double AA Oct 12 '12 at 17:59

There was no benefit from the road because if the road didn't exist then you would have been fine anyway because you wouldn't have been driving. In no way did the road save your life. However had the water not existed in Moshe's time then Yocheved wouldn't have been able to hide him, so the water saved him by giving him a hiding place.

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Had Yocheved put Moshe in still water, whether or not the reeds were there, he would have eventually sunk or been discovered by one of Paroh's men. Instead, she put Moshe into a running river which took him downstream into Batyah's sight giving him hope (and giving Yocheved plausible deniability so that she could nurse him). Thus, the running of the water saved him as much if not more than the reeds.

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Why would he sink in still but not in running water? I don't understand. – msh210 Nov 13 '12 at 18:27
@msh210 Reeds are buoyant but not infinitely so. Eventually they take on water. Before sealants were developed, reeds had a limited lifespan. See kon-tiki.no/E-Exp_Tigris.php on a modern reed boat: "One of the main problems during the Ra and Ra II voyages was that water absorption made the reed boats float very low in the water, covering their decks in water in the last few weeks." – Charles Koppelman Nov 13 '12 at 20:25
Yes... that's why I don't understand why he'd float in running water. – msh210 Nov 13 '12 at 20:27
@msh210 because running water took him somewhere safe rather quickly - before the raft could sink. In still water, he just would have sat in the pond ad infinitum. It's a combination of the river, raft-making technology and the miracle of Batya's bath timing. – Charles Koppelman Nov 13 '12 at 20:28

I think this answers it (Rabbi Nissim Yagen):

Gratitude is not because someone did something for you. But rather if you benefited, that's the keyword. If you benefited from somebody, you must have gratitude (from the book Netivei Ohr pg.165 by Rabbi Nissim Yagen). Even if the person did not have good intentions. That's why it says by Moshe that he was not allowed to hit the Nile river, to make it into blood. He had to ask Aharon to do it. A river does not care. It does not care whether he lived or died. But since Moshe benefited from the river, so then he has to have gratitude and he can't strike it. Likewise in the talmud it says "the well that you drank from, do not throw rocks in it". Even though the well has no feelings and does not care, nevertheless since you benefited from it, you must show gratitude.


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bottom line : maybe he wasn't saved by it but Moshe BENEFITED from the water. that's why he must have gratitude – ray Oct 14 '12 at 9:47
But the guy in the car accident benefited from the road; it's not like he fell through into the sewer system. – Double AA Oct 14 '12 at 13:40
not the same, the water did benefit moshe, as it provided him with an avenue of escape from the egyptians searching for him. Yocheved could not hide him anymore from the Egyptian police. – ray Oct 14 '12 at 21:50
How did the water help? Yocheved could just as easily have left him in the dessert or in a tree. What was unique about the water? – Double AA Oct 14 '12 at 21:51
unfortunately I think these kinds of illogical ethical answers are all too pervasive in orthodox Judaism, for example Moshe being afraid of the "merit" of Og king of Bashan who selfishly informed Avraham that Lot had been captured in order to take Sarah for himself after Avraham perished in battle. Using this logic did not Moshe benefit from living in the house of Pharoah as a child? Should he not be allowed to cause Pharoah and his household any untoward harm? Did not Moshe breathe the air in Egypt? How was he able to to call down the plague of boils (Shemos 9:8) by throwing dust in the air? – user1668 Oct 15 '12 at 13:21

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