“G‑d instructed Moses to restore the well by speaking to the rock from which the water had previously flowed.
However, Moses mistook another rock for the correct one, so when he spoke to it, nothing happened. Moses and Aaron thought that perhaps G d intended them to strike the rock, as He had when He first provided the people with water.
They acted on this conjecture without consulting with G‑d. By Divine providence, Moses struck the original rock, and it indeed gave forth water.
G‑d had intended for the people to learn reverence for Him from Moses’ speaking to the rock: “If an undiscerning, self-sufficient rock obeys G‑d’s will, how much more so should we, who can understand why we ought to obey Him and need His assistance.” But since
Moses struck the rock, this lesson was no longer self-evident. So G‑d had to teach the Jewish people the same lesson by punishing Moses and Aaron for their disobedience.
He decreed that they would die in the desert, never to enter the Land of Israel.
G‑d told Moses and Aaron, “Since you did not have enough faith in Me . . . ” Numbers 20:12
Whatever rationalizations may justify their conduct, Jewish leaders must decide how to act based on whether their actions will inspire the public to greater devotion to the Torah and its ways.
Similarly, when interacting with others, we should always consider the potential impact that our words or actions may have on their attitudes toward the Jewish people in general and toward the Torah’s message in particular.1 Likutei Sichot, vol. 28, pp. 127–128.