Irreplaceable: Hukkat-Balak 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What people in your life possess a unique skill or gift? How would you compensate for those qualities when those people are not available to you?

Jewish tradition teaches that the Israelites had water in the wilderness due to the merit of Miriam, and her death gives the reader a moment to recognize how special she was:

The Pitch: “The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.” – Numbers 20:1

Swing #1: “In our own day, Miriam’s well has become for us a symbol of Jewish women’s creativity, spirituality, collective experience, healing, and wisdom.” – Ellen Frankel, Ph.D., The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman’s Commentary on the Torah

Swing #2: “With regard to Miriam it is not written: ‘By the mouth of the Lord’ [as with Moses’ death]. Rabbi Elazar says: Miriam also died with a kiss.” – BT Bava Batra

Swing #3: “[Miriam’s death was recorded in the Torah] only to show that Israel later sinned. Israel had no water there without Miriam, and [her days and years] were not specified when describing her death, as was done for Sarah.” – Zohar

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think that Miriam is given proper credit for her role in the Israelite community? Is it our responsibility to emphasize Miriam’s contribution to the Torah narrative? How can we best celebrate our ancestors whose stories are too brief?

Shabbat Shalom, and wear a mask!