There are many explanations given as to what went wrong at “Mei Meriva”. Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch points out that Moshe was asked to take the stick – that “wonderous stick” with which he performed many miracles – with him, when he want to speak to the rock. Typically, this stick was used to perform miracles, yet here he was told to merely take the stick with him and talk to the rock. The obvious question is, what was the purpose of having the stick if he wasn’t going to use it?
Rav Hirsch explains that in the desert, klal Yisrael enjoyed an existence above the natural elements: Water from a rock, mann from heaven, etc. They were soon going to walk into the land of Israel and would have to serve Hashem and exist via regular mortal means. By Moshe Rabbeinu speaking to the rock and bringing forth its water, he would symbolize to the Jewish people that the water, which until now came out miraculously, was really always there. However now, they would just have to do hishtadlus to bring it out. That is why this time he went to speak to the rock and not use the stick.
Based on this thought, we can understand that the stick represented “miracles” and speaking to the rock represented a more “natural” method of existence. By having the stick with him while he was speaking to the rock, it would show two halves of one whole: Hashem runs the world on a constant basis, just that sometimes He hides himself behind what we consider to be everyday life, and sometimes he runs the world with open miracles. It seems to me that when Moshe Rabbeinu hit the rock with the stick, he caused confusion among the people: Was the stick now representing natural existence or was it representing supernatural intervention?
In our daily lives there are many times when we feel that something abnormal happened and Hashem intervened – whether positively or negatively – to do something to us. Yet when something ordinary happens, we divorce it from Hashem, and attribute it to “nature” – again showing that we are confused. In fact, many times we hear about people who found themselves in difficult situations and they will tell us of the miracles that happened to them. Yet when it comes to their daily lives they find it difficult to have emunah. I have spoken to many people who have told me of their miracles, such as surviving the holocaust, and they told me it was totally supernatural, yet when forced with a question of working on Shabbos, these same people felt that it was pikuach nefesh, and it was “impossible” for them to survive without desecrating the holy Sabbath day (I am not judging). They were incapable of seeing that in a single breath from their own mouths, that they acknowledged Hashem’s ability to intervene in an unnatural way and immediately afterwards forgot about Him when it came to making their finances work out. Many times a person may feel it is necessary to cut corners in his mitzvah observance because it is “not possible” for him to be successful without excessive hishtadlus. Yet, when someone becomes ill, and the doctors say the only hope is prayer, the same person will become fervent in his observance and believe that Hashem can make the impossible happen. A person may even take time off from work in order to double-up on his religious observance, knowing full-well that Hashem can take care of his parnasa. Our mission in life is to transfer the belief that Hashem is in control of everything, into our normal every-day existence as well.
This is also what was necessary in conquering the land of Israel. Hashem had us fight for the land in order to teach us that even when we are facilitators, He is still the only one determining the outcome. The message of this parsha might be to make it clear that the natural and the supernatural are both the design of Hashem and we are obligated to see Him in all instances, whether spectacular or mundane.