20:11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the people and their cattle drank.
When we think about the mei meriva – waters of strife – it brings to mind the sin of Moshe Rabbeinu, which caused him to not enter the land of Israel. Yet, in the prayer for rain which is said during Sukkos, we mention: “…upon the rock he struck, and out came water.”
It seems to me a little odd that at a time we are asking for Hashem’s mercy and to ask Him for water we should mention when Moshe brought forth water from the rock in an improper way.
I would like to answer this question based on an idea of the Netziv. There is a discussion as to what Moshe Rabbeinu was supposed to say when he was Commanded by God to speak to the rock. It seems a bit strange, as rocks usually don’t listen to human commands! The Yalkut says that Moshe was to learn in that place, and through his learning (or his prayers) he would bring water from the rock.
What is the idea of learning or praying on the rock in order to bring about water? The Maharsha in Kedushin tells us that prayer is actually part of our regular efforts to bring out success in our mundane affairs. It is not something “supernatural” that is imposed on reality. Rather, this is part of the natural reality. For example, the Ramban in Parshas Bechukosai discusses how the Land of Israel, when Jews live in it as Jews are commanded to, will naturally prosper according to the laws of nature. The gemora tells us that if one were to stand on Mount Carmel and look into the water, the Well of Miriam would be recognizable. This means that the well of Miriam was a natural phenomenon of a water source that was accessed by klal Yisrael as long as Miriam was alive. Now that she died, Moshe Rabbeinu had the option to either use his staff to bring about water as a miracle, or to learn Torah or pray and bring about water through the laws of nature. If one were to ask which is a greater sanctification of G-d’s name: to make a miracle or to have things just work out naturally – most people would jump to the conclusion of a miracle. Yet the discerning eye understands that causing a miracle is “forcing the issue”. The true miracle and sanctification of G-d’s name is when all systems work in unison.
Many times people go to the hospital and see people who were sick and six months later see them recovered. The visitors are inspired because they know that there were many people in the same situation who just did not make it. They do not realize that it could very well be that they themselves could have been doomed to the same fate, but their prayers caused that everything should work out and that they should not even get sick. Those people who are blessed not to be affected by Corona should think that it could very well be that if not for their own tefillos, they would not have been saved, and we should all be thankful to Hashem that we were saved by His grace and that this is the greatest sanctification of Hashem’s name.