The Kiss of Death:
Did the RBSO kiss Miriam? Say it’s not so, ober let’s find out.
Last week, we met the maybe mythical Mrs. Oin ben Peles and discussed how this virtuous woman seemingly saved the life of her husband. We also met Mrs. Koirach who seemingly sent hers to his certain death. This week, we will begin and maybe also end with a shtikel discussion on Miriam, she the older sister of Aharoin and Moishe and a very real person. Why Miriam?
Once again this week, the Oisvorfer was struggling: which of the myriad topics covered in parshas Chukas should be reviewed? A list of potentials which included the Poro Aduma (red heifer), Miriam’s passing, complaints about water and food, Aharoin’s passing and burial, fiery snakes, the staff used to hit the rock, and Moishe’s travel restrictions, was made. The RBSO avada knew of the Oisvorfer’s struggles. It was decided to lead off with Miriam and go from there. A few paragraphs were already in draft form, when on Tuesday, the following comment arrived to Oisvorfer’s website from reader Jeremy Gerrick over in San Francisco.
Wishing you all the best from our humble Shul in San Fran.
A question that’s been bothering us all quite a bit and caused quite a few heated discussions. Somewhere in the beginning of Shemos we learn that the two midwives who refused to kill Jewish babies were “made into houses”, i.e. Large families. And we also learn that one of these midwives was in fact Miriam.
But! Nowhere after that including until her death in this parsha do we hear about her family, children, nothing!
So which version is correct?
Nu, chaver Jeremy, it’s min hashomayim mamish (from heaven) -just like the magic munn which fell daily for forty years- that your comment arrived asking a specific question about Miriam. As stated above, the first draft of this week’s review was beginning to take shape when your comment arrive; Miriam was the lead. Ober since you asked a question about her family, it was decided to give her expanded coverage. Taka she deserves it.
Though not mentioned by name in the heylige Toirah, the medrish -who else- tells us that Miriam was indeed married to a very good man by the name of Kolave whom we featured two weeks ago in parshas Shelach, and again last week, when we answered a comment from reader Brian Bidner who wrote suggesting that if blessed with a baby boy, he would strongly consider naming him Kolave. Why isn’t her wedding or the fact that she was married to Kolave mentioned in the heylige Toirah? Ver veyst? Maybe she was and maybe she wasn’t ober the medroshim which tell us she was, are mamish gishmak to read. It’s avada also possible that the medroshim were emboldened after reading in Shemois (Exodus) that Miriam was indeed one of two midwives that defied Paroy’s orders, choosing instead to let the children live, and therefore the RBSO built them into houses, whatever that means. It is avada possible that it’s emes, ver veyst.
At a sheva brochis speech given several years back in honor of Daniela Blisko’s wedding -she the daughter of Eli Blisko, longtime friend of decades mamish (call him at 516-328-1700 or visit at www.uniliteinsurance.com for all your insurance needs) – the Oisvorfer mentioned that the very virtuous Miriam may have saved the life of her husband Kolave. If you ever need givaldige material for a June sheva brochis, the Oisvorfer will be happy to share it with you.
Jeremy asked if Miriam had a family? Nu, we already know from the medrish that she was married to Kolave and since the medrish gave her a husband, they also gave her children, or at least one that is Toirah mention worthy. Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 11b-12a) azoy: one of her children was a very good man by the name of Chur. Back in Shemois (17:10) we read that both Chur and Aharoin assisted Moishe while the Yiddin were warring with Amolake. The Toirah recounts how when Moishe would lift his hands up, the Yiddin would beat the Amalekites ober when he needed to rest them, the war effort would not go well. What to do? Aharoin and Chur helped Moishe keep his arms propped up!
Sadly, Chur was killed by the eygel building mob when he tried to prevent them from reveling with the golden calf. Ober the RBSO did not forget that Chur gave up his life and rewarded him with a grandson by the name of Betzalale who at the tender age of 13 was appointed as the master craftsman and lead project manager of the entire Mishkan effort. This Bitzalale was seemingly the great grandson of Miriam and Kolave. The medrish suggests that she had other children with Kolave and that Kolave either had additional wives with different names or that each of the names listed in Divray Hayomim (Chronicles) is an allusion to his sweetheart Miriam.
Having said all that, yet another medrish suggests that Kolave married Bisya. Who? Shoin and OMG: Ober wasn’t she Paroy’s daughter, the very person who stretched out her arm and pulled baby Moishe out of the river? Indeed. Shtelt zich di sahylo (the question arises), azoy: to whom was Kolave married? To Bisya, Paroy’s daughter and Moishe’s adopted mother? Or, to Miriam, Moishe’s biological sister? And the answer? Ver veyst! The heylige Gemora based on pisukim found in Divray Hayomim (Chronicles) brings down two different opinions. None however mention Miriam by name as being married to Kolave. Why then is it suggested that Miriam married Kolave? Shoin, not to worry because the medrish decided that the various euphemisms used to describe one of Kolave’s wives, are all attributed to Miriam. Shoin and settled: Kolave was indeed married to Miriam. Moreover, not just were they married and lived happily after (until she passes away in this week’s parsha at the tender age of 126), they also had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. If you follow the trail, we will also come to learn that their lineage included none other than Dovid Hamelch. Gishmak.
Ober what about the kiss? Was she kissed or not? Nu, we will explore the kiss and Miriam’s passing which takes place in this week’s mamish action packed parsha of Chukas. That and lots more below. Ober ershtens (firstly)…
Long before Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (ad meah vi’esrim) formed the Rolling Stones in 1962, over in the midbar, the RBSO gave the Yiddin a magical rolling stone which they enjoyed for forty years. This stone somehow rolled and traveled with the Yiddin throughout their entire midbar experience. And its purpose? Says the heylige Gemora (Taanis 9A) azoy: While the Yiddin were traversing the midbar for 40 years, they were zoiche (merited) to see three daily miracles. Firstly, magic munn fell from the sky daily (except on the heylige Shabbis) and this munn sustained them. As an aside, later in this week’s parsha, the Yiddin will again complain about the munn. The second were the a-na-nay hakovod (the clouds of glory) which guided them by day. These clouds of glory were also the first and most accurate form of GPS. Mamish thousands of years before we were introduced to GPS as a navigational tool, the RBSO had already created the system and employed it to lead the Yiddin from one encampment to another while sojourning in the midbar. Whenever the clouds moved, the Yiddin packed up and followed them until they stopped moving. At that point, the Yiddin arrived to their next destination and encampment. At night, they were afforded the clouds of fire to light up the night and for protection. Protection is avada helpful, if you chap. Especially so. And the third daily ness (miracle)? Ah yes: the third was this rolling stone which somehow sustained the Yiddin and their animals with water. One medrish tells us that this well-stone produced enough water to also make the desert bloom with green pastures and beautifully scented flowers. A number of husbands taka may have needed flowers to appease their wives after found wandering into the wrong tents, if you chap. Moreover, avada they needed flowers in the midbar; how else were they to properly celebrate Shovuis? How all this happened, ver veyst? The heylige Gemora also tells us that these three miracles occurred respectively in the zichus (merit) of Moishe, Aharoin, and their sister Miriam, the triumvirate of leadership that led the nation out of Mitzrayim and throughout the wilderness.
Was Miriam also considered one of the leaders of the Yiddin? And if she was, why is that she gets but six Toirah shout-outs during her lifetime, two of which are but references to her but without her name being mentioned? Taka an excellent kasha, ober, once we explore her resume and accomplishments, we will see just how effective she was behind the scenes. It might even be said that without Miriam, efsher there would be no Moishe to speak of.
Is the concept of a traveling well stone so hard to believe? Of course not! The Midbar, as we have discussed on many an occasion was bichlall (generally speaking) a magical place; open miracles were seen and experienced daily. And if you have no issues accepting that the munn fell daily for forty years and that shoes didn’t require replacement, or that the munn produced no waste -in other words: the Yiddin didn’t ever have to use the facilities- and innumerable other miracles, why should we also not accept that water came from a stone that somehow rolled along as the Yiddin wandered from one encampment to another? All you need to do is imagine and believe it. Was the RBSO not capable of empowering a rock with water and having it move along with the Yiddin? Avada He was and is! Shoin! Ober what has Miriam to do with a rolling watering rock? Soon, we will address that.
In recent weeks, we have been writing about the various calamities that befell the Yiddin during their Midbar experience. Mamish just a few weeks back, the Oisvorfer wrote how depressing a parsha Shelach, which featured the Miraglim, was. It was there when the RBSO, angry about the loshoin horo that spewed forth from the scouts, decreed that the Yiddin’s stay in the Midbar would be extended to a full forty years. Moreover, the slightly more than 600,000 males between the ages of 20 and 60 who listened to the badmouthing but did not argue with the miralgim, were condemned to die during the ensuing 38 years. Taka it was depressing to read and one has to wonder about the mindset of those doomed. What were they thinking and how were they coping daily with death looming? So happens that Miriam too was chastised by the RBSO for speaking some; that for another parsha.
Ober, all that’s nothing compared to what’s in store as we read parshas Chukas this coming shabbis. Taka it’s a good thing this parsha is typically read during the summer months when yeshiva is already out and when many adults are traveling, efsher nebech skipping shul and the entire kriyas HaToirah. Parshas Chukas is hands down the most disturbing and depressing of all. Besides yet more outburst from the Yiddin who are once again thirsty, hungry, and generally not content, it’s in Chukas where we will lose a few of our favorite Toirah heroes. Moreover, our #1 hero too will get the shreklich news that his visa into the Promised Land has been revoked; he is to die in the midbar. It’s avada disturbing to lose one beloved hero, ober three in one parsha? Yikes!
As mentioned above, it’s In Chukas where we will say goodbye and aviderzeyn (until next year) to Miriam whose passing and burial (after all she did for the Yiddin), is described in but one posik (Bamidbar 20:1).
|1. The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.||אוַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּל הָעֵדָה מִדְבַּר צִן בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם בְּקָדֵשׁ וַתָּמָת שָׁם מִרְיָם וַתִּקָּבֵר שָׁם:|
The heylige Toirah tells us only that she died and was buried. Not one word is mentioned about her virtues or that the people mourned for her. Did they? And how did she die? Says the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 17A) azoy: throughout history there were but six people whose lives were not taken by the ‘Malach Hamoves’ (Angel of Death). Specifically what it says is that the Malach Hamoves had no jurisdictional power over these six. Who are these lucky six and how did they die? They, Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Moishe, Aharoin and Miriam all died when the RBSO took their souls, a unique form of death reserved for the very righteous. They died ‘Al Pi Hashem’ (by the mouth of the RBSO), or what we refer to as ‘nishikas meys’, the kiss of death. They died painlessly. The RBSO took their souls. How does that work? Exactly how we don’t fully chap, ober says the RambaM (Guide to the Perplexed Vol 3 ch 51) azoy: this form of death is manifested when the prophets (Miriam, as a prophetess is also included) meditated intensely about the greatness of the RBSO. Their desire to cleave to Him was so intense, that the RBSO Himself took their lives. Can we understand these concepts? Not!
Ober asks the heylige Gemora azoy: where does the heylige Toirah teach us that Miriam also died by the mouth of the RBSO (the kiss)? The answer is nowhere! Ober says Rebbe Eliozor azoy: though not specifically mentioned that our heroine Miriam died in this manner, she did anyway! She is to be included among the six that died by the kiss. Ober why taka is this significant factoid not mentioned when others that merited the kiss of death are? Says Rashi so gishmak, azoy: mentioning that the RBSO would kiss a woman, even a good and virtuous one like Miriam who was kimat sinless -save the one episode where she badmouthed Moishe’s relationship with his Kushite wife to Aharoin, and was stricken with some form of leprosy- wasn’t respectful. Avada the RBSO does not kiss women. Shoin: case closed.
And says the heylige Gemora (Birochis 8A) azoy: the RBSO created 930 different varieties of death, a smorgasbord mamish. Too bad we don’t get to pick. The most difficult is the death by a plague; the easiest of all, is the kiss of death. The kiss of death is compared to drawing a hair out of milk. Drawing a hair out of one’s throat however, if you chap, is no picnic. Veyter!
Earlier we asked if the Yiddin mourned or properly mourned Miriam’s passing? They should have. Was it not Miriam who gets credit (according to the medrish) for convincing her parents Amrom and Yoicheved -separated at the time due to a decree form Paroy the farebrecher (bad guy) that all male babies be thrown to their deaths into the river- to reunite and have another child? It was. Baby Moishe was born as a result. Was is not Miriam, a mere six year old, who stood at the river banks to see what would happen to baby Moishe – he the first ever Jew to take a river cruise- as he floated down the Nile? It was! Was it not Miriam who convinced Paroy’s daughter Bisay (she, efsher (later on) the wife of, or one of the wives of Kolave, our hero mentioned above), to call for Moishe’s mother because baby Moishe refused to suckle form the breasts of a shiksa princess? As an aside, what was he thinking? Shoin? It was Miriam. Was it not Miriam who, following kriyas Yam Suf (crossing of the Sea of Reeds), and after the men sang the Oz Yoshir hit single, rallied the women to bang away (at their instruments you chazir) and sing the RBSO’s praises? It was! Was is not Miriam who, though in a hurry to leave Mitzrayim, had the forethought to pack musical instruments instead of cake and cookies for the trip because she, through ruach hakoidesh (holy spirit) she enjoyed as a prophetess, saw that the Yiddin would safely cross the river while the Egyptians would drown? It was.
And was it not due to Miriam’s great virtues, seemingly always near a water source, that efsher the RBSO rewarded her and the Yiddin with a steady supply of water delivered by a rock for a full forty years (shy a few months) during their midbar stay? It was! Ober did they properly mourn her? Seemingly not! As described above, she died and was buried with a few words. Veyter gigangin (they seemingly forgot about her quickly). Could that be the reason that the RBSO, who appointed the rolling rock to be His agent for water, had the well dry up following her passing? Could very well be! The Yiddin needed to learn and appreciate what they had while she was alive and to recognize her role on behalf of the Jewish people. Says the Kli Yokor: they did not do so properly. And as a direct result, it follows that the events which took place immediately after her passing, and which are covered in greater detail, are all a result of the Yiddin’s lack of hakoras hatoiv to Miriam while she lived and following her passing.
These same events may have led to death sentences imposed on both her brothers – Moishe and Aharoin- oy vey. Lommer lernin: earlier we learned that the rolling well-stone which sustained the Yiddin and their animals throughout their stay in the midbar, was given by the RBSO in the merit of Miriam. The heylige Toirah recounts that immediately after her passing, the Yiddin complained they were thirsty. What happened? We are taught that following her passing and efsher taka because the Yiddin did not properly eulogize and mourn for, the rolling stone ceased to provide water. It went dry. In another version, the stone taka rolled away and was now hidden from sight. It was resting among other stones and unrecognizable to Moishe. The Yiddin complained to Moishe; they demanded that he provide water lest they all die out in the midbar. The RBSO responded and told Moishe to grab his shtekin (staff) and then talk to ‘the’ rock which would then listen and provide water. Seemingly the rock He had in mind was the very rock that delivered water in Miriam’s honor for forty years. Ober as we all know, Moishe, instead of talking to the rock, hit the rock twice. This is the famous incident at Mei Miriva that are mentioned in our Friday night davening. We have on many previous occasions pointed out that one’s shtekin should be kept in check; improper shtekin use, if you chap, can at times bring about the death penalty, oy vey! Though Moishe seemingly abused his by not taking a direct order, the water began to flow. Ober the RBSO was already angry and declared that neither he nor his brother Aharoin would be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
And all this for not giving Miriam her due. Shoin: lesson to be learned.
Though the parsha is mostly depressing, we close with some good news. For those stuck in a rut or elsewhere, it’s in parshas Chukas where the clock moves forward and circumstances change quickly. As the parsha opens, and detailed instructions are given regarding the red heifer – a Chok- meaning that we are to do as the RBSO demanded of us without asking too many questions and certainly without rationale for the command -, one that even the wisest of men, King Solomon, could not chap, we are in year two of the midbar experience. The Yiddin were told just two parshas back, that their stay would be extended to a full forty years. They were depressed mamish, who could blame them and especially so when they learned that nearly all males between 20 and 60 were destined to die before entry. Ober, just one subject later and with the blink of an eye, it’s suddenly year 40 and the Yiddin, after many travails and foibles, a few of which we will recounting in the weeks ahead, are on the precipice of entering the Promised Land. There are but a few months away and counting down. They have new hope. Hope is good.
A gittin Shabbis
The Oisvorfer Ruv