Rashi explains: And you shall speak to the boulder and He did not say, "And hit." "For had they spoken to the boulder and it had brought forth water the Holy One, blessed be He would have been sanctified before the whole congregation, and they would have said, "Just as the case with this boulder which cannot speak and cannot hear, it fulfills the bidding of the Holy One, blessed be He, how much more should we do so? And these are words of homiletics (aggadah), but they are not coherent [on the plain level]. As since He commanded him, "Take the staff," it is understood that he should hit with it, and if it was His will that there only be speech, what is this staff [doing] in his hand? And so [too] with the plagues in Egypt, such that He said (Exodus 7:15), "and the staff that transformed into a snake, take in your hand" - and it is to hit with. And sometimes, it will state, "Extend your hand," and it means to say to hit with the staff, since Scripture will be brief about something that is understood. And the miracle is not greater with speech than with hitting, since it is is all the same to the boulder. And also, why does it says about this (Deuteronomy 32:51), "you trespassed against Me," since the command of speech to this boulder is [also] what is mentioned in the story: He commanded that they speak and it hear that God will bring out water from the boulder, in the way of (Joshua 24:27), "since it listens to all of the sayings of the Lord" - and so did they do, as it stated (Numbers 20:10), "Moshe and Aharon assembled the congregation in front of the boulder; and he said to them, etc." and behold, the boulder was hearing his saying this to all of them. And there are many claims of the commentators about this sin and Rabbi Avraham (Ibn Ezra) already contradicted many of their words. And the secret that he hinted to is also not correct. Since if Moshe lost his concentration the first time and came back and hit it a second time with a concentration of clinging to all, and [then] the waters came out, behold his sin is in the first time, but it would [still] not be fitting to say (Numbers 20:12), "Because you did not trust Me to sanctify Me" - as there is no lack of trust here at all. And the teacher, Rabbi Moshe (Maimonides), adduced a [different] analysis and said (Eight Chapters 4) that the sin of Moshe, our teacher - peace be upon him - was that he veered to the side of ire in his saying, "Hear now, rebels." God, may He be blessed, was exacting with him, that a man like him should get angry in front of the community of the Children of Israel in a [situation] that anger was not fitting. And anything like this in the judgment of this man is a desecration of the name [of God], because they would learn from all of his movements and words, and hope to reach success in this world and in the next world. And how could anger be seen upon him, since it is one of the bad actions, and it only comes from a bad characteristic of the characteristics of the soul? But its stating (Numbers 27:14), "you rebelled against My mouth," is like I will elucidate - that he was not speaking with fools and not with someone who has no virtue - [rather] even the least woman from among their women was like Yechezkel the son of Buzi, as the sages mentioned (Mekhilta, Shira 3). And [so] everything that he would say or do, they would examine; and when they saw that he got angry, they said that he, peace be upon him, has no low quality and if it were not that he knew that God was angry with them because of the request for water and that we angered Him, may He be blessed, Moshe would not have been angry. And we do not find about God, may He be elevated, that He got angry in His speaking to [Moshe] about this matter, but [rather] said [in this verse], "Take the staff and gather the community - you and Aharon, your brother - and speak to the boulder in their eyes, and it shall give its water, and bring out for them water from the boulder and give to drink to the community and their beasts." And behold, we have solved one of the Torah's questions that many words have been spoken about and has been asked many times - which is his sin? And see what has been said about it and that which we have said about it - us - and the truth will show its path. These are his words, may his memory be blessed. And he added vanities upon vanities, as Scripture states, "you rebelled against My mouth" - that they transgressed his words; and [it also] stated, "you did not trust Me" - that they did not trust Him. [Hence] the punishment was not because he got angry. And [had it been so], it would be more fitting that the punishment be upon Moshe when he got angry upon the officers of the army for no reason (Numbers 31:14). And the verse does not recount at all that he got angry, since "Hear now, rebels" is [just] rebuke, in the way of (Deuteronomy 9:24), "You have been rebels with God." And also [another indication is that] Aharon never got angry [all of] his days, since 'he walked in peace and [tranquility]' from his beginning. And also [we see that Maimonides is wrong] since it is impossible that there was not a great anger from God upon them when they made a quarrel with Moshe. And in all of the trials in the wilderness, their great sin was when they said, "Why did you take us up from Egypt," in that they wanted to be slaves to their haters with crippling work, [rather] than being with God like a son that serves his father. And so the verse states (Numbers 11:20), "since you have rejected the Lord that is among you, and you cried in front of Him, saying, 'Why is this, that we went out of Egypt.'" And in the first time they said less than this (Exodus 17:3) - “Why did you bring us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” - and there was a great fury against them; and [there was also] great blame, as it stated (Exodus 17:7), "The place was named Massah and Merivah (quarrel), because of the Israelites' quarrel etc." And here it is written explicitly (Numbers 20:13), "Those are the Waters of Merivah - that the Israelites quarreled with the Lord." And what greater sin is there than this? 'Woe to the one who quarrels with his Creator.' And Moshe said (Deuteronomy 1:37), "With me too was the Lord incensed because of you, saying." If so, they sinned and caused all of this evil - but according to the words of the teacher, they do not have any sin or transgression at all in this whole story. And [about] that which he said, "We do not find about God, may He be blessed, that He got angry [...], but [rather] said, "Take the staff, etc."; know that when they need a thing for their sustenance - even though they complain and sin against Him - 'and He is merciful, expiates sin and doesn't bring all of His fury,' and doesn't mention it, but [rather] gives them their request. And so [too] with the first [incident with] water, He said calmly, "Go in front of the people, etc." (Exodus 17:5) - even though Massah and Merivah were there, which [was the source of the warning] for [all] the generations (Deuteronomy 6:16). And so [too] with the manna, [He said] (Exodus 16:4), "Behold, I am going to rain down bread from the heavens," in the way of love and affection. Except that at the end of the second statement, He said (Exodus 16:12), "I have heard their complaints," [by which] He made known just their sin. But when they complain for no reason, He pours down the fury of His ire upon them. And it also hints to a great fury and the punishment of a plague, as it is stated (Numbers 20:6), "and the glory of the Lord appeared upon them," which hints to the congregation mentioned, and [His glory involves] the appearance of the Hand of God that exists in plagues, as you will see with the scouts (Numbers 14:10), on the day of Korach (Numbers 16:19), and on the next day (Numbers 17:7). And it is a wonder on [Maimonides], as behold it is an [explicit] verse [that God was angry with them] - "And they brought fury at the Waters of Merivah and they caused evil to Moshe on their account" (Psalms 106:12). And Scripture lists this sin with the other great tests that they tested God with in the wilderness. And the closest of the words that have been said about this - and it is good in pushing off the questioner - are the words of Rabbenu Chananel, who wrote that the sin is their saying (Numbers 20:10), "shall we bring out water from this boulder?" And it was fitting that they say, "the Lord will bring out water," in the way that they said (Exodus 16:8), "in the Lord's giving you meat in the evening to eat, etc." And so [too] with all the miracles, they made known to them that God will do wondrous things. And [so] perhaps the people thought that Moshe and Aharon brought out water from this boulder with their [own] wisdom. And this is [the meaning of] (Deuteronomy 32:51), "and you did not sanctify Me." And [with] the first story [of water] at the rock, He said (Exodus 17:6), "Behold, I will stand in front of you there upon the rock at Chorev," and the seventy elders saw the pillar of cloud standing upon the rock." And the matter was publicized, that it was the act of the great God. But here they did not see a thing and they erred about the statement of Moshe and Aharon. And it is likely that it would say about this, "and you trespassed against Me" (Deuteronomy 32:51), since when one derives benefit from that which is consecrated, it is called trespassing. And so [too], "you rebelled against My mouth" (Numbers 27:14), since He commanded them, "and you shall speak to the boulder in their eyes," and the reason [for this] is that I should be sanctified in their eyes; or that you changed My words, [as in] "And she switched My judgments" (Ezekiel 5:6), as I did not command you that you should say this. And "and you did not trust (he'emantem) Me" goes on [what they did to] the Children of Israel; or it is an expression [denoting] strengthening - you did not strengthen yourselves to sanctify me in their eyes; [as in] (Nehemiah 11:23), "and it is secure (amana) upon the singers"; and (Isaiah 22:25), "the peg stuck in a strong (ne'eman) place." And the truth is that the matter is a big secret from among the secrets of the Torah: For at the beginning, He said to him (Exodus 17:6), "Behold, I will stand in front of you there upon the rock at Chorev and you will hit the rock." He is saying that My great name is upon the rock at Chorev, which is the glory of God - a consuming fire on top of the mountain - and because of that, [Moshe] only hit it once and much water came out. But here, He did not explain this to [Moshe] and both [he and Aharon] agreed to hit the boulder twice, and behold, this is a sin. And therefore it stated, "you did not trust Me," to place trust in My name, that the miracle would be done with trust. And it states, "you rebelled against My mouth," because they rebelled against His holy spirit, which is called, "the mouth of God," in every place. And hence He said, "you trespassed against Me," since trespassing is always falsification. And behold, the sin is mentioned explicitly in Scripture. And so [too] did the Psalmist state (Psalms 114:7-8), "From in front of the God of Yaakov; Who turns the rock into a pool of water." And so [too] can you detect it in the prayer of Moshe, who said (Deuteronomy 3:24), "Lord, God, You have begun," that he supplicated to the glorious name [of God], that it should forgive him. And according to the opinion of our rabbis (Sifrei) who mention [Moshe's] anger, it is likely that he hit the rock and [only] a few drops came out, because of the paucity of his concentration due to his anger. And [Moshe and Aharon] wondered about the thing and both of them aggreed to hit the rock a second time - as I mentioned - and that was the sin for both of them. And according to my opinion, the explanation of "and you shall speak to (el) the boulder," is like "about (al) the boulder." And so [too], "So did the Lord of Hosts say to (el) the posts, about the sea and about the bases, [...] To Babylonia will they be brought" (Jeremiah 27:19,22). [This means] that He commanded that they should say in the eyes of all of the community when they were all congregated that God will bring out water from the boulder, and so did He do. And you should not see a problem in "and you shall speak to the boulder in their eyes," since its explanation is like "in front of them," that they should all hear. And so [too], "And Chananiah said in the eyes of all the people, saying, 'So did the Lord say, "So will I break Nevuchadnetsar, the king of Babylonia"'" (Jeremiah 28:11). And so [too] many [other examples]. Or the explanation of "in their eyes" here is that the speech be while they are gathered there and the boulder is in their eyes, as he it states in the action (Numbers 20:10), "And Moshe and Aharon gathered the congregation in the face of the boulder." Since when they were gathered there and saw the boulder face to face, they said, "shall we bring out water from this boulder," as the sages mentioned (Mechilta, Beshalach 6), so that they not say there were springs there. And it could be that it is as if [the words are] jumbled [and it should be understood as if it were written], "Assemble the community to the boulder and speak in their eyes, and it shall give its waters."