The God Squad: The Waters of Meribah

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: I was taught in religious school that the reason Moses was not allowed by God to enter the Holy Land was his killing of the taskmaster in Egypt. Recently, I was told that I was wrong. Who is right? -- A

A: Sorry, dear A, but you are wrong. I wrote this answer in 1984 (before I had even met Father Tom Hartman) and I am sticking to it now:

Moses means, “The one who was drawn out of the water,” and Moses was indeed drawn out of waters:

Moses was drawn out of the waters of his mother’s womb.

Moses was drawn out of the waters of the river Nile.

Moses was drawn out of the waters of the Red Sea.


Only from the waters of Meribah was Moses not drawn out.

In the desert, on the freedom side of the Red Sea, the first response of the people was to cry out for water. God said to Moses,

“Pass before the people and take along the rod with which you struck the Nile, and strike the rock and water will issue from it, and the people will drink.” The place was named Massah and Meribah. (Ex 17:5-7)

At the end of the 40 years of wandering, at the same place called Meribah, the people again cried out for water. This time God spoke to Moses saying,


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