Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L will be one parsha off for the next few weeks. I will be following the schedule in Eretz Yisrael. Click here for a Dvar Torah for this week's parsha in CHUL, Parshas Korach
Parshas Chukas contains a number of the most well-known stories in the entire Torah. Among them, near the end of the parsha, we are told of the death of Miriam. Her death was devastating for Bnei Yisrael on several levels, perhaps most strongly because of the loss of the well.
While in the desert, the physical support of Bnei Yisrael was provided by three things, the manna, their source of food; the well, their water supply; and the Ananei HaKavod, the Clouds of Glory which protected them from enemy attacks and the harsh desert conditions. Chazal tell us that these three things were given to Bnei Yisrael in the merit of Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam, respectively. While they were alive, the Bnei Yisrael didn’t realize that they only received these things in their merit. When they died, Hashem made sure that changed.
After mourning Miriam, the Bnei Yisrael continue to travel. The pasuk (Bamidbar 21:16) tells us that they arrived at a well, after which they immediately sang a song of praise and thanks, while giving elegant descriptions of the well and its origins. Chazal explain that after Miriam died, the well which had been a constant during her life disappeared. The reason for this was to show the nation that only reason they had had the well was in Miriam’s merit; now that she was gone, they no longer deserved it. After they had traveled for a bit, they happened upon the well.
By studying the words of the song, we can determine the reason for the well’s reappearance. First, the pasuk only mentions Bnei Yisrael singing the song, but there is no mention of Moshe. Secondly, why wouldn’t Bnei Yisrael have sung a song about the well forty years earlier when they first entered the desert? They needed water then too! Therefore, explains the Kli Yakar, we can determine that the well disappeared in order that Bnei Yisrael should appreciate Miriam, and the reason it returned was in the merit of Moshe. Since they were singing to Moshe, he didn’t sing with them; and since they hadn’t realized earlier that the well was only in Miriam’s merit, they hadn’t sung anything before.
He brings another proof to this from the words of the song itself. “בְּאֵ֞ר חֲפָר֣וּהָ שָׂרִ֗ים כָּר֨וּהָ֙ נְדִיבֵ֣י הָעָ֔ם בִּמְחֹקֵ֖ק בְּמִשְׁעֲנֹתָ֑ם וּמִמִּדְבָּ֖ר מַתָּנָֽה” “A well dug by the princes, carved by the nobles of the people, through the lawgiver and his staff…” (Ibid 18). As we see from other places, the “lawgiver” refers to Moshe. This song was from Bnei Yisrael to Moshe, thanking him, appreciating him, for providing the merit from which they now received water.
What merit did Moshe have that allowed the well to finally return? Moshe was the one who brought the Torah to Bnei Yisrael; in was in the merit of his teaching the Torah that the manna was given to Bnei Yisrael, it was that same merit that allowed the well to return. However, at the same time, the origins of the well are mentioned in the song as well. “כָּר֨וּהָ֙ נְדִיבֵ֣י הָעָ֔ם” “Carved by the nobles of the people”, the Kli Yakar explains that this refers to those who are גומלי חסדים, purveyors of kindness. These were the people who truly dug the well. It may have been forty years late, but Miriam finally received the thanks and appreciation she always deserved.
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