In Parsha Chukat, Rashi (BeMidbar 19:12) says that, if Moshe would have spoken to the rock instead of hitting it, there would have been a big lesson to the Israelites.

The people would have made a kal v'chomer: if the rock, which does not need livelihood and is not subject to reward and punishment, does the will of G-d, then certainly we should also.

Since when does a rock have intelligence and free will? Isn't it forced to do whatever it does?

Can you learn a similar lesson from your computer, which follows the laws of physics G-d instituted?

  • In keeping with the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that everything a person sees and experiences is a lesson the service of Hashem, you could say Siri is teaching that lesson every day. – Yishai Jun 26 '14 at 14:01
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    What happened to Gadol HaMetzuveh VeOseh? – Double AA Jun 26 '14 at 14:42

You may be "over analyzing" Rashi"s Kal Vachomer, here.

First, translate what Rashi said in the context of the word he is explaining as well as the entire verse. Rashi is explaining the word, "lehakdisheini" - "To sanctify me". In other words, Moshe hit the rock. God said to Moshe SPEAK to the rock. So, Moshe did NOT do God's will, and therefore did not sanctify God's name. Had Moshe spoken to the rock, both Moshe and the rock would have been performing God's will. The people would have said, that just as the rock "responded" to Moshe who spoke to it because God commanded Moshe to speak to the rock, so to should we learn the importance of obeying God's will...

Supplemental to this explanation, view the Sifsei Chachamim marked letter Heh on the verse immediately before this one.

Summarizing what Sifsei Chachamim says - Moshe asked, "Can we bring water from this rock?" - Sifsei Chachamim emphasizes the word THIS, implying that all rocks have the ability to bring forth water. But, Moshe doubted that the specific rock that God told him to speak to would be the one that could do it. By hitting the rock, Moshe didn't prove anything and didn't sanctify God because people thought, "Oh, this is no different than any rock that brings forth water." But had Moshe spoken to the rock, they would have said, "Oh! This specific rock brought forth water because it was listening to God's commandment to bring water, not just because it had the water in it and it would have done so, anyway."


Rashi has no problem attributing intellectual capacity and filtering the command of Hashem to the earth and to the grass.

Thus the idea would appear to be that the rock didn't make any calculations and try to rationalize or justify the Mitzvah - it did what it was told. (The intellect likely meaning coming from its spiritual source).

Free will isn't attributed to something by this. Free will is not about intelligence (although intelligence may be a component of free will). An intelligence makes decisions based on its knowledge and capacity. If its experience and reasoning dictate a certain result, and it follows it, that was not an exercise in free choice. Free choice means, for example, choosing between following your intellectual conclusion and your emotional desire, doing something beyond where a natural reaction (even an intellectual natural reaction) would take you. (This explanation of free choice I heard from Rabbi Elimelech Tzviebel.)


R' Shimon Schwab writes in Maayan Beis HaSho'eva Beshalach 15:8 that part of many miracles is that inanimate objects and animals acquire free-will. He said this in discussing the water wanting to collapse on the Jewish people as they passed through the sea on their way out of Egypt. Another example given was the kal vachomer which Chananya, Misha'el, and Azarya inferred from the frogs jumping into the ovens in Egypt (Pesachim 53b).

The same could be applied to this miracle - part of the miracle would be the rock being imbued with free-will and the capacity to not perform the desired act.


I don't have a source for this explanation, but will posit it nonetheless. Perhaps RaSh"Y is saying that, because we were born with free will, it would be a great feat for us to overcome our inclinations to carry out HaShem's Will effectively as angels (or rocks).

Correct, had we been created without free will, we would have no choice but to carry out HaShem's Will. But, we were created with free will, such that overcoming our inclinations to return to such simple Divine Service is indeed a monstrous feat.

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    That would seem to be the opposite of a kal vachomer. – msh210 Jun 26 '14 at 15:17

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