Erev Shabbos Kodesh Chukas Inspiration 5775

This week we learn of the calamitous sin of מי מריבה, where HaShem instructed Moshe to speak to the rock to draw forth water for the Jewish People. Moshe chose instead to hit the rock and HaShem punished him by banning him from entering into Eretz Yisroel.

The Torah precedes this incident with the following verse (Bamidbar 20:1)וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּל הָעֵדָה מִדְבַּר צִן בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם בְּקָדֵשׁ וַתָּמָת שָׁם מִרְיָם וַתִּקָּבֵר שָׁם, the Children of Israel, the whole assembly, arrived at the Wilderness of Tzin, in the first month and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and she was buried there. Rashi (Verse 2) writes that the juxtaposition of the death of Miriam to the incident by Mei Merivah teaches us that for the entire forty years in the Wilderness, the Jewish People were sustained with water in tahor merit of Miriam. If we look at the words מי מריבה, we will discover the word מִרְיָם contained within. Furthermore, the first time the Jewish People complained for water, it is said (Shemos 15:23) וַיָּבֹאוּ מָרָתָה וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת מַיִם מִמָּרָה כִּי מָרִים הֵם עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ מָרָה, they came to Marah, but they could not drink the waters of Marah because they were bitter; therefore they named it Marah. Here again we see the name מִרְיָם in the words כִּי מָרִים הֵם. Indeed, the Medrash (Pesikta Parashas HaChodesh) states that she was thus called because of the bitterness that the Jewish People endured from their Egyptian taskmasters. Nonetheless, it would seem odd that she would carry this “bitterness” with her throughout life.

In order to understand this enigma, it is worth citing an incident with the Satmar Rav zt”l. The Rebbe once asked someone how he is faring and the person responded, “הכל בסדר,” i.e. everything is fine, whereas the Rebbe retorted, “at the Seder (on Pesach) there is also מרור,” i.e. everything in life is not always perfect. The Torah begins Parashas Chukas with the discussion of the always regarding Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer that is used to purify one who has contracted corpse tumah. This mitzvah is referred to as a חק, a mitzvah without a rationale. It is noteworthy that when the Jewish People first complained for water in Marah, it is said (Ibid verse 25) וַיִּצְעַק אֶל יְהֹוָה וַיּוֹרֵהוּ יְהוָֹה עֵץ וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ אֶל הַמַּיִם וַיִּמְתְּקוּ הַמָּיִם שָׁם שָׂם לוֹ חֹק וּמִשְׁפָּט וְשָׁם נִסָּהוּ, he cried out to HaShem, and HaShem showed him a tree; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet. There he established for [the nation] a decree and an ordinance, and there he tested it. The word שָׁם שָׂם are the same words that the Torah uses regarding the death of Miriam. Based on the incident with the Satmar Rav, we can suggest that the Torah is hinting to the idea that in life there is always bitterness which is a חֹק, an ordinance, that is not rationale. Our job is to merely accept the vicissitudes of life that HaShem sends our way. The silver lining in all this is that after Miriam dies, we learn that the water that the Jewish People drank throughout their sojourn in the Wideners was in her merit. When one accepts the bitterness in life, one will discover the blessings that HaShem has provided for all along.

May we merit a Sweet and Revealing Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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