In Moses’s continued recollection of the prior 40 years, he finally retells the story of hitting the rock when God commanded him to speak instead. Because of this misdeed, God barred Moses from entering into the Promised Land. Moses tells how God became angered at his appeals, saying, “Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again” (Devarim 3:26).
Why does God become exasperated with Moses’s earnest ask for forgiveness? Surly She can understand, or at least be empathetic to, Moses’s desire to see the fruits of his 40 years of leadership.
When reading this verse in Hebrew, our sentence called to mind another quarrel recorded in our narrative. The language God uses in admonishing Moses is: רב-לך rav-lach (translated as ‘enough’). This is the very same rebuke Korah and his horde utilize in accusing Moses and Aaron – “You have gone too far (רב-לכם)! For all the community are holy” (Bemidbar 16:3). Moses then responds by also using the phrase, “You have gone too far (רב-לכם), sons of Levi!” (Bemidbar 16:7).
In both of these usages someone takes things too far. Korah and his community feel that Moses and Aaron unmeritoriously raised themselves above their station, and Moses believes that Korah unjustly desires more than his fair share.
This theme continues when the prophet Ezekiel declares, “Too long (רב-לכם), O House of Israel, have you committed all your abominations” (Ezekiel 44:6), or when he says, “Enough (רב-לכם) Princes of Israel! Make an end of the lawlessness and rapine and do what is right and just!” (Ezekiel 45:9).
In all of these cases, a single, or even a few, infractions may have been forgivable. Yet, much like a nagging child, when the undesirable act occurs repeatedly, sometimes the only response is – enough!
Through looking at how this phrase is otherwise used, we can come to understand that God is not upset with Moses for desiring or even asking for forgiveness. Rather, it is the fact that Moses continues his plea even after God has given Her final verdict.
Ambition and drive are important attributes that motivate us to change and grow. Unfortunately, sometimes our determination consumes us and we are blinded by our ambition. Moses fell into this trap. Having taken the Israelites out of slavery, he let his desire to bring them into the Land lead him into God’s anger.
I hope that we can all contribute to making our broken world a little more whole. However, I pray that dedication to our causes will not consume our deeds and take us ‘too far.’