Parashá Jukat – English Version

Bemidvar – Numbers 19:1-22:1
Searching for Miriam’s Well
In this week’s parashah, among other subjects, appears the death of a great female leader of the people of Israel: the prophetess, Miriam haNeviah. It is written in the text:
    And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. (Num. 20:1-2)
Many sages have wondered about the relation between Miriam’s death and the lack of water in the wilderness. It would seem that these subjects have nothing in common; however, many scholars mention a connection.

Regarding this verse, the Talmud determines a special role held by Miriam among the people:
    Rabbi Yose bar Yehuda says: The people of Israel had three excellent leaders – Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. Three good gifts were extended to the people of Israel on their behalf – the well, the clouds, and the manna. The well was provided due to the merit of Miriam, the clouds of glory because of Aharon, and the manna on account of Moshe. When Miriam died, the well disappeared, as it says: «Miriam died there…”, and immediately afterwards, the text states: «The congregation had no water…» (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Ta’anit 9a).
The author of this Midrash points out that a verse tells the story of Miriam’s death, “Miriam died there”, and immediately after it is written, “there was no water for the congregation”. Are these two events related? He answers saying that it was through Miriam’s worth that the people had water during their journey through the wilderness. The prophetess dies, the well disappears.
In Pirkei Avot we read that the water well is one of the ten phenomena created by God just before the beginning of the first Shabbat in history. Furthermore, tradition tells us that this well witnessed the life of many biblical characters: Abraham dug it, Ishmael took water from the well in the wilderness, Eliezer met Rebecca in front of the well, Jacob met Rachel, Moses met Tziporah, and later on, due to Miriam’s merit, this same well quenched the thirst of the people in the wilderness. With Miriam’s death, the well seemed to disappear and they had nothing to drink.
In fact, we could say that the biblical well did not literally contain water, but rather the purity, strength and freshness that water provides to human beings. Water plays a special role in our lives. No living being can exist without it. What’s more, it allows us to be clean, fresh and happy. Water possesses the energy to keep the world in motion. Also, water symbolizes hope: that of continuing to be alive, even in the wilderness, in the dark, and in sorrow.
May God allow us to find that water well, which passed from generation to generation, and may it purify us, sustain us and give us hope when we find ourselves lost in the wilderness. May we truly have the possibility of enjoying the water, so that we may nurture ourselves physically and spiritually, through our life journey.
!Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
B´nei Israel Congregation, Costa Rica