Thursday, July 06, 2006

mystery and the power of speech - the be'er of miriam and parah adumah

I'm sort of thinking out loud on this idea... I've been wondering all week how the parsha of parah adumah fits the rest of the sequence of korach-chukas-balak. The laws of parah adumah were clearly given earlier, yet the parsha is stuck in here. Chazal see the juxtoposition as teaching that the death of tzadikim (Miriam) atones just like the parah, but in light of the previous discussion of the power of words, I was wondering if there was something deeper here. Perhaps there is a parallel between the vanishing of the be'er of Miriam, be'er signifiying the power to explain Torah (see nedarim 55 which darshens the shira on the be'er later in the parsha as meant to describe limud hatorah, highlighting the double-entendre), and the idea of a chok as something which defies explanation. Instead of freely available water/explanation, the Torah confronts the dor about to enter Eretz Yisrael with a sense of mystery. There is a transformation required from the cocoon of the midbar to the "real" world where life resembles more of "chok" hiding the yad Hashem than readily understandable rules and open miracles. In this light, the lesson of Mei Meriva should have been that through the power of words, the be'er in both its literal and symbolic senses may be restored. This is the idea of torah sheba'al peh as a vehicle to penetrate the veil of meaning hiding behind the "well" of words which is torah sheb'ksav, and fits with the idea of speech as the overarching theme of the parsha - the tefila and neder required to defeat amalek, the shira of the be'er, the negative power of speech represented by Bilaam vs 'mah tovu ohalecha ya'akov'.
In the backof my mind I can't help but think of R' Nachman's idea (L.M. II:74) that parshas parah is the transformation from purim (pur-parah) to Pesach. Purim is the holiday of hester panim, while Pesach is the holiday of pe-sach, speech, explanation, haggadah. The parah adumah is the invitation to grapple with the mystery of hiddeness through the vehicle of Torah speech, which leads to ultimate revelation and redemption. I know this is pushing the envelope of derush and needs some work, so feel free to comment and help me (or tell me I'm barking up the wrong tree).


  1. I think you have some good ideas. I like it when I see people grappling with the text and providing a "novel spin" to interpretation as understood through that person's unique "portion" of Torah. Maybe I'm not articulating it well, but I hope what I mean is coming through (like the teachings regarding the 600,000 letters and that we each are a unique letter in Torah, etc.).

    It's kind of tiring to keep reading the same ole commentary over and over. New ideas are good too.

  2. I am not sure it is related to what you are saying but I have heard from Rav Wolfson that Moshe was supposed to give over Torah She'Ba'al Peh at Mei Meriva. By hitting the rock he lost out on this opportunity

  3. The idea of giving over torah is a midrash on v'dibartem el haselah.

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