Translate This Page
Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael, therefore, you will not bring this congregation to the land that I have given them. (20:12)
The commentators go to great lengths seeking a reason to find Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon
guilty of a sin. What was their infraction? What did they do wrong? Each in his inimitable manner
suggests what might have been wrong with their actions. Horav Yechezkel Sarne, zl, derives from here
a powerful lesson concerning the overriding importance of even the slightest sin. A sin such as the one
committed by Moshe and Aharon, one that commentators are hard-pressed to explain and establish, was
considered great enough to prevent these great leaders from entering Eretz Yisrael - despite all they had
accomplished. Forty years of leading Klal Yisrael in the wilderness; praying five hundred and fifteen
tefillos, prayers; supplicating Hashem to rescind the decree against him - all to no avail. All of this
became insignificant due to one sin, a sin upon which no one seems to agree. This teaches us the
overwhelming negative effect of a sin.
One sin: Adam Ha'Rishon transgressed one sin, and it changed the world. Avraham Avinu,
despite of all his incredible efforts to spread monotheism throughout the world, asked one question:
Ba'meh eida ki iras'shena? "How will I know that I will inherit the land?" and Hashem decreed a four-
hundred year exile against his descendants. Moshe Rabbeinu gave his life for Klal Yisrael, but he
committed a single sin. That was enough to prevent him from entering Eretz Yisrael. Imagine, if Moshe
had taken us into Eretz Yisrael, we would never have lost it! All because of one sin.
There is a flip side, a positive perspective to the "one sin" effect; it also works the other way.
When a person performs one mitzvah, he not only receives awesome reward, he also changes the
world. He catalyzes a positive effect on the world. Avraham Avinu was referred to as Avraham HaIvri,
because he was on eivar echad, one side against the entire world, which was on eivar sheini, the
second/other side. If a person has the desire, he can change the world.
The Chafetz Chaim, zl, changed the world with one mitzvah. He taught the world about the
evils and negativity of lashon hora, evil speech, and the world has been forever altered as a result of his
lesson. Horav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zl, changed Torah chinuch in America. Horav Aharon Kotler,
zl, taught us the essence of Torah lishma, studying Torah for its sake, pure Torah, just because Hashem
told us to study. The Satmar Rav, zl, demonstrated what it meant to adhere to the traditions of the past,
not becoming overwhelmed and being swayed by the pressures and influences of contemporary society.
Reb Yosef Rosenberger saved the mitzvah of shatnez from extinction in this country. And the list goes
on. Virtually every Jewish community in this country that has a source of Torah instruction and
dissemination is the product of the efforts of few lay leaders in conjunction with a rosh yeshivah, a rav,
or a dedicated Torah scholar who initiated the project. Yes, one aveirah can destroy the world, but one
mitzvah can give it continued existence.