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Parsha B’haaloscha 

05/31/2018 08:56:34 PM


At the very end of the Parsha, Miriam and Aron speak badly about Moshe’s marriage, and when Miriam is subsequently punished with Tzara’as, the Torah says that she was quarantined outside the camp for seven days while the people waited for her return before resuming their travels.  Citing examples for the idea that God rewards a person beyond the proportions of their actions, the Mishna in Sota (9b) explains that God was honoring Miriam by having the nation wait for her in return for the time that she remained with Moshe when he was cast into the Nile River.  This point highlights the significance of the point that Miriam waited with Moshe, and proves that it was not trivial or simply a result of curiosity.  More than just a sibling relationship, Miriam connected with Moshe on a deeper level, as the Gemara says that after Pharoh decreed that all Jewish boys be thrown to the river, Amram and Yocheved separated to ensure that they would cause death to their future children.  It was Miriam, in a bold and persuasive argument, who challenged her father’s reasoning and convinced him to return to her mother, and Moshe was the result of this decision.  Furthermore, Miriam prophesized that Moshe was destined for greatness as the savior of the Jewish people, and while her parents were initially proud and complimentary of her prophecy, they openly mocked her predictions after placing Moshe in the river.  After Amram critically remarks, “My daughter, where has your prophecy gone?” Miriam is left with the formidable challenge of synchronizing her prophecy with reality, and moreover, to grapple with her role in Moshe’s existence and her parents’ dissatisfaction.  When Miriam waits by the river, she is believing in her convictions and anticipating the next opportunity to help Moshe, and when that moment comes with Basya taking Moshe, Miriam is able to guide her brother’s destiny to survival.  Patience is generally trying, but Miriam’s patience was more of persistence and strength to stick to her beliefs to endure all sorts of doubts along the way.  As the Midrash notes, Miriam is comprised of the words Mar-bitterness and Yam-sea, as Miriam’s greatness is captured in the bitterness she experiences by the sea and how she still perseveres through the experience to protect her prophecy.  Much like Miriam waited for brother, the nation waits for her and believes in her righteousness, and despite her setback and current state of Tzar’as, they remain confident that she will repent and resume to her esteemed status.  

The Gemara in Ta’anis (9a) says that it was in Miriam’s merit that the Jews were provided with a miraculous rock/well that offered them water throughout the years in the desert, and it was Miriam’s death that dried up the waters in the well and caused the infamous story of Moshe hitting the rock in Chukas.  There are those who say (see Sifsei Chachamim to Parshas Chukas) that Miriam’s connection to the water well stems the story of her waiting for Moshe by the Nile River, and from her leading of the Jewish women in song after the waters of the Yam Suf split.  The Pasuk says that Miriam took the tambourine in her hand, and Rashi notes that Miriam had taken the tambourine out of Egypt because she knew that miracles would occur and there would be a need for song.  Here again, it is the theme of Miriam trusting her prophecies and preparing accordingly that make her a hero in a water scene.  How does this connect with water and wells?  

The beauty of relating to dreams, prophecies, or destiny is that one is able to work “backwards” instead of forwards.  Given that there is a presumed picture at the end, synchronizing destiny with reality is really a process of uncovering the steps along the way and finding the answer of how it will happen as opposed to what will happen.  If I first have a dream of what I can be, I can trust my visions and believe that I can make this happen.  Instead of constantly searching externally for solutions to problems, dreams create an internal focus where one uses trust in a future picture to solve a current challenge.  The contrast between Amram leaving Moshe and Miriam remaining with him was not that Miriam thought of a solution that eluded Amram; it was that Miriam had the future picture in her head while Amram did not.  Miriam led the women with drums from Egypt not because she was a better packer that the men; it was simply that she already had the picture of singing songs to God in her head.  The uniqueness of water is that it is defined as a “source”- the sustenance of life that is naturally produces itself.  Unlike other types of foods that Man must create, wells and seas are internal powers that generate themselves.  Digging a well is the process of trusting that water is hiding deep down and therefore uncovering that source by removing all the layers of dirt that block the waters, and as such, we can understand how Miriam’s greatness produces the miraculous well for the Jews.  The well represented the destiny of the Jews and depicted that they would be the great nation of God, and with that, their challenges became how to uncover the dirt blocking their destiny.  The Midrash notes that the word “Be’er” is mentioned 48 times in the Torah, commensurate with the 48 Middos of acquiring Torah.  Learning Torah and working on one’s character is like digging a well in the sense that it is a process of stripping layers and revealing what is hiding underneath.  We seek not so much to change who we are but to discover who we are; not to make new meaning in God’s words but to remove all the superficiality that clouds them.  We find the Avos in Sefer Bereishis digging wells, as this is the physical embodiment of a most spiritual metaphor.  The story of Miriam’s well never ends, as the Gemara in Shabbos 35a has a whole discussion about how to locate the well in the Mediterranean Sea, or near Tevaria in the Misrash’s text, and Miriam’s well also comes up in the laws of Havdala (Orach Chaim 299) where the Rema cites the practice of women drawing water after Shabbos because Miriam’s well travels around the world after Shabbos.      


Wed, June 26 2019 23 Sivan 5779