חֻקַּת – Laws

Reading this Parshah, everyone always speaks about the red heifer – פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה I want to talk about the people leading the nation, and their tragedies. This is a Parshah, where both Miriam and Aaron die and Moses makes that tragic mistake that costs him his entrance to Eretz Yisrael.

א  וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּל-הָעֵדָה מִדְבַּר-צִן, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן, וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם, בְּקָדֵשׁ; וַתָּמָת שָׁם מִרְיָם, וַתִּקָּבֵר שָׁם.

1 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.

ב  וְלֹא-הָיָה מַיִם, לָעֵדָה; וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ, עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן.

2 And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron

“… the prophetess Miriam now dies, and the loss of the woman, who occupied a place as high as that of her brothers, Moses and Aaron, at once became evident in a way that was perceived by the pious as well as by the godless. She was the only woman who died during the march through the desert, and this occurred for the following reasons. She was a leader of the people together with her brothers, and as these two were not permitted to lead the people into the Promised Land, she had to share their fate. The well, furthermore, that had provided Israel with water during the march through the desert, had been a gift of God to the people as a reward for the good deeds of this prophetess, and as this gift had been limited to the time of the march through the desert, she had to die shortly before the entrance into the promised land. Hardly had Miriam died, when the well also disappeared and a dearth of water set in, that all Israel might know that only owing to the merits of the pious prophetess had they been spared a lack of water during the forty years of the march. While Moses and Aaron were now plunged in deep grief for their sister’s death, a mob of the people collected to wrangle with them on account of the dearth of water. ” (The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg [1909])

ז  וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.

7 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

ח  קַח אֶת-הַמַּטֶּה, וְהַקְהֵל אֶת-הָעֵדָה אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל-הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם, וְנָתַן מֵימָיו; וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן-הַסֶּלַע, וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת-הָעֵדָה וְאֶת-בְּעִירָם.

8 ‘Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle drink.’

יא  וַיָּרֶם מֹשֶׁה אֶת-יָדוֹ, וַיַּךְ אֶת-הַסֶּלַע בְּמַטֵּהוּ–פַּעֲמָיִם; וַיֵּצְאוּ מַיִם רַבִּים, וַתֵּשְׁתְּ הָעֵדָה וּבְעִירָם.

11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle.

יב  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, יַעַן לֹא-הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי, לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–לָכֵן, לֹא תָבִיאוּ אֶת-הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי לָהֶם.

12 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron: ‘Because ye believed not in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’

Rashi says here:

“להקדישני TO SANCTIFY ME — For had you spoken to the rock and it had brought forth water I would have been sanctified before the whole congregation, for they would have said: What is the case with this rock which cannot speak and cannot hear and needs no maintenance? It fulfils the bidding of the Omnipresent God! How much more should we do so?”

And finally:

כג  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, בְּהֹר הָהָר, עַל-גְּבוּל אֶרֶץ-אֱדוֹם, לֵאמֹר.

23 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying:

כד  יֵאָסֵף אַהֲרֹן, אֶל-עַמָּיו, כִּי לֹא יָבֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–עַל אֲשֶׁר-מְרִיתֶם אֶת-פִּי, לְמֵי מְרִיבָה.

24 ‘Aaron shall be gathered unto his people; for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against My word at the waters of Meribah.

כה  קַח, אֶת-אַהֲרֹן, וְאֶת-אֶלְעָזָר, בְּנוֹ; וְהַעַל אֹתָם, הֹר הָהָר.

25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor.

כו  וְהַפְשֵׁט אֶת-אַהֲרֹן אֶת-בְּגָדָיו, וְהִלְבַּשְׁתָּם אֶת-אֶלְעָזָר בְּנוֹ; וְאַהֲרֹן יֵאָסֵף, וּמֵת שָׁם.

26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.’

כז  וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה; וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶל-הֹר הָהָר, לְעֵינֵי כָּל-הָעֵדָה.

27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded; and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.

כח  וַיַּפְשֵׁט מֹשֶׁה אֶת-אַהֲרֹן אֶת-בְּגָדָיו, וַיַּלְבֵּשׁ אֹתָם אֶת-אֶלְעָזָר בְּנוֹ, וַיָּמָת אַהֲרֹן שָׁם, בְּרֹאשׁ הָהָר; וַיֵּרֶד מֹשֶׁה וְאֶלְעָזָר, מִן-הָהָר.

28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount; and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.

כט  וַיִּרְאוּ, כָּל-הָעֵדָה, כִּי גָוַע, אַהֲרֹן; וַיִּבְכּוּ אֶת-אַהֲרֹן שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם, כֹּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל.  {ס}

29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Many of us once in a while think that it would be great to know the day of passing so that we can be prepared, put all our affairs in order, leave what we need to our children, etc. On the other hand, how hard it is to know that you are on your journey to achieving the goal you were striving for all your life, and to be told – that’s it – today, you have to stop. There is no arguing with this voice. How much harder it is to know that all your life you’ve been doing precisely what was expected of you, and one mistake stops you from achieving that goal of your life!

All three of our leaders, Moses, Aaron and Miriam knew exactly what their goal in life was. Are many of us that lucky? Do we have a clear picture of where we need to go? Our roads are mostly much curvier than those of the Amram family.

 

There are no answers in this chapter for me, only questions. I am leaving for Israel B’H to study again next week looking for these answers. May H-Shem help me find them and all of us appreciate every question He asks on the road to our goals.

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