The Torah portion of Chukas tells of Miriam's passing.
the verse goes on to say that "the people did not have any water."
The Gemara explains that the two events were related, for the Jewish people had water in Miriam's merit. With her passing, Miriam's Well ceased to flow. It subsequently returned in the merit of Moshe and Aharon.
The Gemara also states that the Clouds of Glory which surrounded and protected the Jewish people in the desert were in the merit of Aharon, while the Manna was provided for them in the merit of Moshe. With the passing of Aharon (related as well in Chukas) the Clouds of Glory ceased. They returned in the merit of Moshe.
What is the relationship between the Manna and Moshe, the Clouds of Glory and Aharon, and the Well and Miriam?
All three miracles have an association with Torah. The Clouds of Glory protected the Jews from the ill winds, snakes and scorpions found in the desert. They also smoothed out mountains and laundered the nation's clothing, as the verse testifies: "your garments did not wear out."
The manna was of course eaten, with the taste being whatever the person desired. The well provided water, something that in itself does not provide nourishment, but distributes the nourishment which food provides to all parts of the body.
Torah also contains these three elements. It sustains the Jew in an internal way, and protects in an external fashion. And there is an element that diffuses the first two aspects to all Jews.
That Manna-like aspect of Torah that is internal - such as the comprehension of it - affects each Jew according to his or her personality, intellect and spiritual capacity. The Cloud-like aspect that is external - such as the revelation of the soul's essence that it can engender in times of crisis, for example - affects all Jews equally.
The aspect of water in Torah - that which descends from on high - diffuses both the internal and external aspects within all Jews.
The relationship between the manna and Moshe, the Clouds of Glory and Aharon, and the well and Miriam, will be understood accordingly.
Moshe was the Jews' shepherd, guiding each according to his particular level. This is similar to what the Midrash relates about Moshe herding actual sheep: When he grazed the flock, he made sure that the young lambs had softer grass.
The reason Moshe acted in this manner is because the provision of sustenance must be tailored to the needs of each individual. Thus the manna, a food that served the internal needs of each Jew, descended in the merit of Moshe.
Aharon was known for his "love of creatures," i.e., he loved even those people whose most flattering appellation was that even they are G-d's creatures. By loving them all, he was able to engender within them a desire to perform mitzvos, although these people harbored no such desires on their own.
The Clouds of Glory therefore appeared in the merit of Aharon. For all things come about "measure for measure." Since Aharon loved all creatures without differentiating, he drew down the Clouds of Glory in his merit.
While still in Egypt, Miriam devoted herself to the small children. Her heroic and self-sacrificing efforts negated Pharaoh's evil decree, and prepared the generation to say: "This is my G-d and I shall glorify Him."
So it was in her merit that the Jewish people had water to drink, as water symbolizes the ability of Torah to descend even to those whose level puts them "at the outskirts of the community."
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, pp. 331-336.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar 20:1.
- (Back to text) Verse 2.
- (Back to text) Taanis 9a.
- (Back to text) Mechilta, Beshallach; Bamidbar Rabbah 1:2; Tanchuma, Beshallach 3.
- (Back to text) Devarim 8:4, and commentary of Rashi.
- (Back to text) Yoma 75a.
- (Back to text) See Pirush HaMishnayos LehaRambam, Eruvin 3:1.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 51.
- (Back to text) Midrash Tehillim [Edition Buber] ch. 86, fn. 152.
- (Back to text) Avos 1:12.
- (Back to text) Avos d'R. Nassan, beginning of ch. 12.
- (Back to text) Sotah 1:7.
- (Back to text) Shmos 15:2.
- (Back to text) Sotah 11b.
The Torah portion of Chukas begins with G-d saying to Moshe:
"Speak to the Jewish people and have them bring you a parah adumah temimah, a completely red cow...."
Our Sages note that G-d insisted that the parah adumah be brought to Moshe because "all the parah adumos shall cease, but yours shall remain forever." This was of great import to all subsequent parah adumos, for the priests who made the future parah adumos all sanctified themselves from the ashes of Moshe's parah adumah. This is why all parah adumos are known by Moshe's name.
This unique relationship is also stressed in the explanation for the commandment of parah adumah: Only to Moshe did G-d reveal the divine rationale behind parah adumah - "to you I shall reveal the reason of parah adumah."
Why is there such a special relationship between the parah adumah and Moshe?
The parah adumah brought about atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. The commentators explain the connection between atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf and purification from the impurity that comes from contact with the dead (the simple reason for the parah adumah) thus:
Were it not for the sin of the Golden Calf, the Jewish people would have been freed from death. For at the time the Torah was given, the Jews were freed from death. It was only because of the sin of the Golden Calf that the nation again became subject to dying. Thus, the sin of the Golden calf was a cause of death, and hence also of the impurity that results from death.
This, then, is the connection between atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf and purification from the defilement that comes from contact with the dead.
According to the above, we can better understand the statement of the Rambam that "nine parah adumos were made from the time they were given this command until the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash. The first was made by Moshe ... the tenth will be made by King Moshiach."
Why does the Rambam find it necessary to number the parah adumos offered throughout the generations? Moreover, why does he single out the tenth from all the other offerings found in the prophecy of Yechezkel and specify that it will be made by King Moshiach?
The Rambam is hinting at the fact that complete purification brought about through the parah adumah will only come about through Moshiach; only then will complete atonement have been granted for the sin of the Golden Calf.
At the time of Moshiach, and only then, will there be complete purification from the impurity that results from contact with death. For at that time death will cease, as the verse states with regard to that period: "Death will be swallowed up forever."
This is alluded to in the Rambam's statement that "the tenth will be made by King Moshiach," for the number 10  is a sign of fulfillment and completion, and the completed state of purification brought about by the parah adumah will only be realized with the parah adumah offered by Moshiach.
In light of the above, we also understand the unique relationship between the parah adumah and Moshe:
The fundamental action of the parah adumah is not the negation of impurity, but the negation of its very cause - death. This requires Moshe's power, for we find that only "Moshe's handiwork is eternal," and "Moshe did not die ... just as in the past he served, now as well...."
Therefore the ability of all subsequent parah adumos to purify depended on the ashes of Moshe's, for the ultimate power of the parah adumah's purification (freedom from death, or eternal life) is connected with Moshe's eternality.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 127-129.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar 19:2.
- (Back to text) Tanchuma, Chukas 8; Bamidbar Rabbah 19:6. See also Rashi, Yoma 4a.
- (Back to text) See Parah 3:5 and in Mishnah Achronah, ibid. See also commentary of Maharzav to Bamidbar Rabbah, ibid.; Shaloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav, p. 359b.
- (Back to text) Shaloh, ibid., fn. 3; Biurei MaHarai and Sifsei Chachamim on Rashi, Chukas ibid.
- (Back to text) Tanchuma and Bamidbar Rabbah, ibid.
- (Back to text) Tanchuma, ibid., and Bamidbar Rabbah 19:8. See also Tosafos, Moed Katan 28a, s.v., Mi.
- (Back to text) Klei Yakar, Alshich, Shach Al HaTorah, Eitz HaDaas Tov (from the Rachav), et al.
- (Back to text) Shmos Rabbah 32:1; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 37b, 131b.
- (Back to text) See Shabbos 146a.
- (Back to text) See Zohar, Vol. I, p. 52b, 126b, Vol. II, p. 193b.
- (Back to text) Hilchos Parah Adumah, conclusion of chapter 3.
- (Back to text) 45:17ff. See also Rambam, Hilchos Maaseh HaKorbanos end of ch. 2.
- (Back to text) See Shmos 32:34 and commentary of Rashi; Sanhedrin 102a.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 25:8.
- (Back to text) See Mishnah conclusion of Yoma; Zohar, Vol. I, p. 115a. See also Sefer HaMaamarim 5628, p. 40ff.; Sefer HaMaamarim Melukat, Vol. II, p 277ff.; Or HaTorah LeNach p. 523ff.; Or HaTorah, Chukas end of p. 809.
- (Back to text) See Iben Ezra, Shmos 3:15; Pardes, Shaar II.
- (Back to text) See Sotah 9a; Tana Dvei Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 18; Tzafnas Paneach beginning of Torah portion Terumah.
- (Back to text) Sotah 13b; Zohar, Vol. I, 37b ff.
Chukas opens with the decree of the Red Heifer. Concerning this chukah (a command that has no rational explanation), the Torah states:
"This is the chukah of the Torah."
By using the terminology "This is the chukah of the Torah" rather than "This is the chukah of the Red Heifer," the Torah is indicating that of all the inexplicable chukim, this is the most inexplicable. Thus we find that even King Solomon, the wisest of men, who understood the divine rationale underlying the other chukim, could not fathom the reasoning behind the command of the Red Heifer.
Accordingly, we must understand the statement of the Midrash that "G-d told Moshe: To you I shall reveal the reason of the Heifer." This seems to indicate that there is a reason for the chukah after all.
This being so, why couldn't King Solomon fathom it? Additionally, why didn't Moshe reveal this reason to the Jewish people, as he had done on other occasions when G-d revealed something to him, and Moshe in his goodness revealed it to the nation?
We must therefore say that Moshe did not reveal the reason for the Red Heifer because its rationale is truly incomprehensible to a created being. This is why even King Solomon could not fathom it. G-d in His true limitlessness revealed to Moshe something that a created being could never fathom on his own.
But this leads to yet another question. Why did G-d not reveal the reason to the Jewish people with the same infinite power that He used to reveal it to Moshe?
One of the interpretations of "This is the chukah of the Torah" is that the decree of the Red Heifer is the Torah - a foundation for the entire Torah and its commandments. Even the rational commands are expressions of Divine will, and as such they transcend man's logic; just as no created being can comprehend its Creator, it is impossible for any created being to comprehend His will.
This is why the rationale for the Red Heifer remained concealed from all Jews; it was necessary that at least one command remain in a state of chukah, thereby indicating that the rest of the mitzvos were also chukim.
This is crucial to one's spiritual service. For if all mitzvos were to have descended to a rational level, their performance would be governed by human understanding. It would then be impossible for a Jew to attain mesirus nefesh, total self-sacrifice for G-d, a level that transcends the limitations of human intellect.
But according to this, it would seem that G-d's revealing of the reason to Moshe was detrimental to him; he was now able to comprehend the rationale for all the commandments, so wasn't his power of mesirus nefesh stifled?
Moreover, how can one possibly say that a divine revelation could cause a deficiency and inadequacy, rather than being a source of betterment and advancement?
Moshe had attained the level of supernal wisdom, a level suffused with self-abnegation, for which reason he was fully capable of receiving the most sublime revelations of G-dliness.
Thus, the revelation of the reason for the Red Heifer in no way impeded his ability to perform mitzvos with mesirus nefesh, for that which was revealed to him was not a logical reason. Rather, G-d's infinite divine will was revealed within Moshe's intellect, so that it became Moshe's essence.
Only one who exists apart from G-dliness must toil to attain total self-sacrifice for G-d. Moshe, however, was steeped in G-dliness; it was his entire being. Thus his very essence displayed mesirus nefesh.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVIII, pp. 229-237.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar 19:2.
- (Back to text) See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VIII, p. 125.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar Rabbah 19:3; Tanchuma, Chukas 6.
- (Back to text) I Melachim 5:11.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar Rabbah 19:6; Tanchuma, ibid., 8.
- (Back to text) See Nedarim 38a.
- (Back to text) Koheles Rabbah 8:1. See also Pesikta (and Pesikta d'Rav Kahana) Parah.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah beginning of Chukas.
- (Back to text) See commentary of Or HaChayim on this verse.
- (Back to text) See Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, chs. 4 and 8.
- (Back to text) See Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:5-10; op. cit., ch. 8, et passim.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Masei, p. 89d, 92a, et al.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 35.
- (Back to text) See Shoresh Mitzvas HaTefillah, conclusion of ch. 15.