In Numbers 20:8 G-d commands Moshe to speak to the inanimate rock for water.

Was this really a reasonable command for G-d to make?

Even Moshe seems to have thought this was an impossible accomplishment.

Is there any way in which we can understand why G-d would want Moshe to speak to a non-living thing such as a rock?

  • The word 'el' ('to') is probably meant as 'al' ('regarding'), as is the case elsewhere in the Bible (from Rav Yitzchak Etshalom). Thus, the command would mean, "Speak (to the nation) regarding the rock (and the miracle about to be wrought from it).
    – user9907
    Jul 17, 2016 at 1:37
  • It would be inconceivable that G-d would command Moses to publicly ask-- read 'pray to'-- an inanimate object for water. It would only open the floodgates for idolatry.
    – user9907
    Jul 17, 2016 at 1:38
  • At least some commentaries understand it as teaching Torah by the rock (citation needed)
    – Menachem
    Jul 17, 2016 at 1:45
  • @ephraimhelfgot Would he have been asking or commanding?
    – Loewian
    Jul 17, 2016 at 1:51
  • @Ephraim one is spelled with an aleph and one would be spelled with an ayin. Also, who would Moshe be taking to about the rock? Klal Yisroel? Than the next word li'eineihem makes no sense. Try again.
    – user6591
    Jul 17, 2016 at 3:33

1 Answer 1


In his commentary to that Numbers (20:8), Rav Sa'adyah Gaon renders "אל הסלע" as "על הסלע". (according to R. Yosef Qafih's Hebrew translation of R. Sa'adyah's Arabic.) In his notes there, R. Yosef Qafih explains that the intent was not that Moshe should speak to the stone, but rather that he should speak to the Jews in the proximity of the stone. Specifically, (R. Qafih explains in his notes to Rav Sa'adyah Gaon's explanation to verse 12), he was to speak to them about the infinity ability of God. The intent of the later verse (20:12) is not that Moshe did not believe in God, but that he did not inspire faith in God on the part of the Jews.

The Tanchuma (quoted by Rashi to verse 11), however, understand that Moshe was meant to talk to the rock. This does not seems so difficult as it is no less likely to cause water then hitting it.

  • I feel that Rav Saadya Gaon addresses the issues very well. If that is unacceptable, or if there is something about the explanation of Chazal that remains unacceptable, please specify.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 17, 2016 at 4:33
  • +1 This is a great source even though i don't think it makes sense and doesn't directly answer the question.
    – user6591
    Jul 17, 2016 at 17:26
  • @user6591 I am waiting for more input from the OP to know whether or not it answers the question, ir if a different angle is desired.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 17, 2016 at 18:00

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