In Parshat Eikev, Moshe recounts all the challenges of the time in the desert. In Devarim 8:15 we read,

15.Who led you through that great and awesome desert, [in which were] snakes, vipers and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought water for you out of solid rock

(that's from the Chabad site -- the Schottenstein has "thirst" instead of "drought")

Why does the text have to explain that "thirst" (or "drought") comes when/where there is no water? In Bereishit 37:24, the additional statement "and there was no water in it" is explained by some to mean "but there were snakes in it". But in Devarim, the presence of snakes and scorpions is stated explicitly.

So why does the pasuk have to explain that there was no water, after already stating that there was thirst/drought?

  • From a stylistic purpose it doesn't seem difficult (note: it seems appropriate to quote the original Hebrew, as the discussion centers around the exact wording). The verse culminates with reference to the miracle of water from the stone. To do so, it must give context to the thirst that caused it. The thirst could have been caused by either lack of water, or polluted water. If the latter, then the miracle wouldn't directly address the problem. Thus, in context, nothing really seems superfluous. Furthermore, even w/o the end of the verse, it could still clarify which of the two forms of... – mevaqesh Aug 9 '15 at 15:03
  • if the end of the pasuk explains how water was brought about when there was none, then the reference to a lack is implicit. Is this to distinguish it from the incident where bitter water was turned sweet? – rosends Aug 9 '15 at 15:05
  • thirst were referenced. See also judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/18799/… – mevaqesh Aug 9 '15 at 15:05
  • Perhaps I wasnt clear. To reiterate, thirst could be a result of lack of water or unfit water. The verse clarifies וְצִמָּאוֹן as being the former kind; not the latter by saying אֲשֶׁר אֵין מָיִם. – mevaqesh Aug 9 '15 at 15:08
  • It doesnt need to reference a particular case of polluted water, it just adds a couple extra words to keep the passuk in perspective. – mevaqesh Aug 9 '15 at 15:10

The Bnai Yisrael needed to be reminded of the intrinsic danger of the midbat through which they traveled because they themselves did not see. The ananei hakavod took care of the snakes and scorpions. It was intrinsically a land in which thirst was a major danger, because of the heat and dehydration that would occur, and there were no oases in which they could stock up on water for the next leg of their journey. Additionally, the lack of water also caused an increase of danger from the snakes and scorpions as seen in the second quote below. That is, besides thirst, the lack of water caused a the danger of the scorpions to increase and be more deadly.

For example [Yeshivat Har Etzion PARASHAT EIKEV by Rav Ezra Bick] (http://etzion.org.il/vbm/english/parsha/45eikev.htm)

This picture of the desert is clearly depicted in the second section. "... the great and terrible desert - snake, serpent, and scorpion, a thirst without water." The physical conditions of the desert are that life cannot be sustained - there is no water, and if there is anything, it is snake, serpent and scorpion. You of course had water, and never met a scorpion, so that YOU lacked nothing, but the desert lacked everything. This, I think, is the proper meaning of the repeated phrase, "which your fathers did not know." Manna is not known to your fathers - in other words, it is not food. The difference between wheat and manna is not one of local habit; it is not the difference between pizza in Italy and felafel in Beirut. Manna is not the food of Sinai - it is unknown, never known, neither to you nor to your fathers. There was NO FOOD IN SINAI - but you ate anyway, because human existence is not dependent on the habitat, or on one's bank, or flocks, but on the utterances of God's mouth.


Why is Hashem's leading the Jews through a wilderness with all sorts of snakes and his bringing forth water from the rock, mentioned in the same pasuk?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 33a) relates that in a certain city people were being harmed by a snake. When they informed Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa about this, he asked to be shown the snake's burrow. He put his heel over it, and when the snake came out and bit him, it died. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 5:1), a spring of water had miraculously opened under Rabbi Chanina's heel and that sealed the fate of the snake, for when a snake bites a person, if the person reaches water before the snake, the snake will die, but if the snake reaches water first the person will die.

Describing the miracles Hashem performed for the Jewish people in the wilderness, the Torah states, "Who leads you through a great and awesome wilderness, of snakes, fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirst where there was no water." These conditions were extremely dangerous since they were likely to be bitten by snakes in places where water was not available. The Torah therefore states that Hashem miraculously brought forth water from the rock, which provided water instantly to any person bitten, killing the snake and saving the person.

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