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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS CHUKAS 5770 BS"D

Ch. 20, v. 1: "Vatomos shom Miriam" - And Miriam died there - At this point in time the bnei Yisroel carried the coffins of the twelve sons of Yaakov with them from Egypt for close to forty years. Miriam died during the fortieth year of the bnei Yisroel's wandering in the desert. They were quite close to the border of Eretz Yisroel and they knew that they were going to enter very soon, so why didn't they bring Miriam's remains along with them? If you were to ask the same question about Aharon, who died shortly thereafter, also in our parsha, this is simply answered. Hashem told Moshe to bring him up Hor Hohor and, as Rashi elaborates, they found a location where there was a candle burning and a bed waiting for Aharon. Surely this miracle indicated that Aharon should die and his body be left there. As well, "ki lo yovo" of verse 24 and "u'meis shom" of verse 28 clearly indicate that his body was to remain at Hor Hohor.

Miriam death however, had no such commands or indications, so why not bring her remains to Eretz Yisroel? Our sages derive from the juxtaposition of "vatomos" to "vatikoveir" that there should be no delays before burying a woman, not even to wait for "m'kon'nos," women who add to the atmosphere of mourning. The reason is that even a deceased woman has blood flow from her body, "zivoh." To avoid this very unpleasant situation from happening we bury her post-haste. (I believe that for Miriam, a woman of 123 years of age at death, this was not a real concern, but the lesson can still be derived from "vatomos - vatikoveir.")

The Meshech Chochmoh has a novel approach to this issue. Miriam died in Kodeish, a city somewhat close to Eretz Yisroel. This is in one of the three lands, Keini, Knizi, and Kadmoni, which the bnei Yisroel would eventually inherit as part and parcel of Eretz Yisroel. Since she died there they buried her there, knowing that it would become part of Eretz Yisroel in the future. This was not the case with the twelve sons of Yaakov. They had to be removed from Egypt in any case. It made no sense to bring them all this way and bury them in what would in the future become Eretz Yisroel.

The Shaarei Aharon expands on this theme. The Malbim explains that had there been no sin of "mei m'rivoh," then Moshe and Aharon would have entered Eretz Yisroel along with the bnei Yisroel, Moshiach would have come, and with this, the immediate building of the Beis Hamikdosh, etc. Thus the place Miriam was buried would have become Eretz Yisroel immediately. (Wouldn't she have been resurrected through "t'chias ha'meisim?")

As well, the twelve sons of Yaakov were to be buried in their tribal land parcels. Similarly there would have later been three cities that would actively become cities of refuge on the Trans-Jordanian side and Miriam was buried in one of these locations, a Levite city, and she was a daughter of Amrom the Levite.

Ch. 20, v. 8: "V'nosan meimov v'hishkiso es ho'eidoh v'es b'irom" - And it will give forth its waters and you will give drink to the congregation and to their livestock - The Meshech Chochmoh takes note of two differences between Hashem's telling Moshe what would happen when he would strike the rock, and what actually took place. In verse 11, which relates the results after the rock was struck twice, it says, "va'yeitzu mayim rabim" not "meimov," and it says, "va'teisht ho'eidoh u'v'irom." The Meshech Chochmoh explains that had Moshe done as per Hashem's command and only struck the rock once, a small amount of water is all that would have come forth (as related in the medrash that after one striking of the rock a weak flow of water emitted). With his striking the rock a second time a tremendous amount of water poured forth. The small amount would have been quite sufficient for them even though according to the laws of nature it would have insufficient. This would have been a blessing akin to the blessing given to "shomrei shviis," that of "ocheil kima umisboreich b'mei'ov" (see Rashi on Vayikra 25:19), eating a little, but having a blessing in his innards, i.e. that he is satiated. This level is only for the people, who are on this lofty level. The animals' drinking surely would be on a lower, physical level, hence the separation between the two types of drinking, as indicated by the words, "ES ho'eidoh v'ES b'irom." Once Moshe struck the rock a second time and an abundance of water gushed forth, and this was now minus the special blessing, the people's drinking and the animals' drinking were on one low, equal level, hence "va'teisht ho'eidoh u'v'irom."

Perhaps it could be added that following this approach another small difference between the wording of the command and the wording of the actual results can be understood. In verse eight it says, "v'hotzeiso LOHEM mayim," and in verse 11 LOHEM is omitted. Had the waters contained the loftier capacity of a small bit quenching their thirst, the extracting of water would have been LOHEM, totally for the people, and as an aside the animals' needs would also have been accommodated. However, through the double striking of the rock a lower level of plain water poured forth, and thus it was not LOHEM, as it was the same physical water for the people and the animals.

We might offer an allusion to the Meshech Chochmoh's insight from the verse in T'hilim 93:4. "Mikolos mayim rabim adirim mish'b'rei yom," - from the sounds of MANY waters, an abundance of water rather than a small amount emanating from the rock in the desert, and in turn its being a regular physical drinking rather than being water that is Heavenly imbued with great satiating powers, "adir bamorom Hashem," - Hashem the Powerful One remains aloft, and does not lower His influence into the water.

As well, a new translation of "mei m'rivoh" might emerge. The diminution of sanctification of Hashem is in that the bnei Yisroel did not sustain themselves with a minimum of water, but instead received it in abundance. "Mei m'rivoh" could be translated as "waters of abundance." (n.l.)

Ch. 21, v. 5,6: "V'nafsheinu kotzoh ba'lechem haklokeil, Va'y'shalach Hashem bo'om eis hanchoshim" - Our soul is disgusted with the flimsy bread, And Hashem sent snakes upon the nation - Rashi (gemara Yoma 75b) explains that they complained that the manna was totally digested and there was no waste for the body to expel. "Is there one born by a woman who has intake and does not expel?"

In truth there is such a creature, called "yitosh" (gemara Gitin 56b). Since they complained that this cannot go on for an extended period of time, it is akin to negating the existence of the "yitosh." The gemara Shabbos 77b says that there is no creation that Hashem created that is for naught. Even the "yitosh" has a purpose. It can be used to heal a snake bite. Since the complainers seemed to overlook the existence of the "yitosh," they were punished in kind, to be bitten by snakes and to not have the "yitosh" as an antidote. (N'zirus Shimshon)

Although a very nice vort, a careful reading of Rashi shows that they only said this regarding a human being, "y'lud ishoh," and not that there is no such creature.

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See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a


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