Sunday, July 01, 2012
Ralbag on what Miriam's death meant
The episode of Mei Meriva appears in the Torah immediately after the death of Miriam. Rashi quotes from Chazal that these two episodes are related. There was a well which traveled through the desert with Bnei Yisrael and provided them with water in Miriam's merit. When she died, the well vanished. This led to Bnei Yisrael's demanding water, which Moshe made some error in fulfilling Hashem's plan to deliver, and hence he lost the right to enter Eretz Yisrael. Ralbag writes that even if we put aside the Midrashic explanation that Miriam was responsible for the well, there is still a relationship between the parshiyos, one that I think runs even deeper than the one Rashi suggests. Ralbag explains that had Miriam been alive, her leadership would have helped temper the riotous uprising of the people -- the demand for water would have never reached the feverish pitch that it did. Miriam's death meant not simply the loss of a well, but it meant the loss of someone who could provide direction to Klal Yisrael. (I don't think there is anything wrong with suggesting that there may have been some special quality that her specifically feminine leadership provided which was now lacking.) He then goes on to suggest an even bigger chiddush, that had Miriam been alive, as a prophetess and older sister of both Moshe and Aharon, she would have undoubtedly been consulted by them before they took action to fulfill Hashem's command to speak to (or hit, as they misunderstood) the rock and provide water. Had Moshe and Ahaon had had the advantage of her counsel, they would not have erred and been punished had we would have been led into Eretz Yisrael by these three giants. Quite a mouthful -- Moshe Rabeinu, the greatest of prophets, still benefited from the advice of Miriam! Looking back a few parshiyos, I think we can now even better appreciate the spirit in which Miriam spoke out against Moshe's separation from Tziporah. She was fulfilling the all important role of providing counsel to her brother Moshe, counsel which he could benefit from even if he was a greater prophet than her.