Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
Miriam, whose death is recorded in Parashat Hukkat, embodied the honor and glory of the women of Israel.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Verse 1: The entire community of the children of Israel came into the wilderness of Tzin in the first month, where the people settled down in Kadesh and Miriam died and was buried.
Verse 28: Moses divested Aaron of his (priestly) garments and invested his son Eleazar with them. Aaron died there on the top of the mountain and Moses and Eleazar descended from the mountain.
Following the death of Aaron in verse 29, the Torah tells us that "the entire community saw that Aaron was dead and the entire house of Israel wept for Aaron 30 days." Interestingly, there is no mention of any mourning following the death of Miriam. In fact, what follows immediately upon her death is the typical grumbling of the Israelites. The water that had been provided over 40 years to the Israelites was due to Miriam. When she died, the water immediately dried up and the people's thirst led them once again to rebel against Moses.
Your Numbers Navigator
1: What was it about Miriam that ensured the miracle of water in the wilderness for the people?
2: When Aaron died, he was succeeded by Eleazar, and the people mourned for thirty days. When Moses died, he was succeeded by Joshua, and again, the people mourned for 30 days. Why do you think that no one succeeded Miriam?
3: Why do you think the people complained, instead of mourned after the death of Miriam?
4: Who fulfilled Miriam's responsibilities after her death?
Our tradition teaches that only the men of that generation died in the wilderness before entering the Land of Israel, while the women merited entering the Land.
Your Midrash Navigator
Numbers Rabbah 21:10
"In that generation the women built up the fences which the men broke down."
The passage from Numbers Rabbah is too long to quote, but shows that the women did not participate in the building of the Golden Calf or accept the Council of the Spies not to enter Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel). The following is the conclusion of the passage.
"Against this congregation the decree (not to enter the Land) was issued, because they had said: 'We are not able to go up.' The women, however, were not with them in their counsel."
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch commented on this by saying:
"As a result, the women, as grandmothers and mothers, were able to go with the new generation when it entered the Promised Land for its new future, and to bring with them into that new future their personal recollections of their past in Egypt and of the momentous events they had witnessed in the wilderness under the protection and guidance of God.