It’s strange how in Exodus 17 when Israel complains about a lack of water God tells Moses to strike a rock to bring forth water, whereas in Number 20 God tells him to talk to the rock. Why not have Moses strike the rock again (as he does)?
The best way I’ve to understand this is that between Exodus and Numbers the children of Israel were supposed to undergo an evolutionary approach. In Exodus they had just left Egypt and still had a slave mentality. They needed time to believe that God, through His servant Moses, was the authority figure. That is why Moses striking the rock there and water gushing out directly gets their attention. By Numbers, however, the Children of Israel are supposed to have evolved to such a degree that they believe that God, with Moses as His conduit, can do things supernaturally. God can merely have Moses speak to a rock and water will gush forth, quenching Israel’s thirst.
We know that we do not say the same things to a toddler that we do to a teenager. Furthermore, we would not give a lecture in Anatomy 101 the same way we would to a medical resident. As people evolve, the content they learn and the way they are taught must also evolve. By Numbers the Children of Israel were supposed to already believe in a God who could provide water in the midst of the desert. Unfortunately that was not the case.
As we prepare to read Parshat BeShellach tomorrow, may we examine how our faith is evolving day by day and where it is at in this particular moment. Hopefully our relationship with God is not in the same place that it was when we were in 5th grade but has evolved through our life experiences in the same way that our intellectual acumen has. If we look hard enough for them, we will always find opportunities to grow and to evolve into the people we are meant to be.