Burying Miriam: Parashat Huqqat

Parashat Huqqat 2016

Parashat Huqqat
Numbers 19:1 – 22:01

And the Children of Israel, the entire community, came to the wilderness of Tzin in the first month, and the people settled in Qadesh; And Miriam died there and she was buried there.” (Num. 20:1)

I have never seen Aaron so distraught. It was terrible to see his silent grieving when his two sons, Nadav and Avihu, perished on the Day of Consecration of the Tabernacle. But, that time, he just kept on going, fulfilling his office as High Priest. He held his head up high, though the light was put out in his eyes.

But this time he had no official duties to perform, no activities to displace his sorrow. He and Moses sat in the dark and gloomy tent, waiting to hear the news about Miriam’s funeral, that she was finally buried.

Moses had intended to take care of the burial himself. But Aaron cornered him and spoke hard words to him. I have never seen that before, either.

Aaron said, “Brother, if I, as High Priest, am not allowed to attend our sister’s burial, then do not dare to go there without me. Do not dare to leave me alone here. We will designate others to bury her quietly on our behalf. And we will wait and watch, just as she patiently waited and watched to see who would draw you out of the waters when you were a little baby. Just as she watched over the two of us when we were toddlers, playing together in the Pharaoh’s palace.”

So Moses breathed deeply, and then he agreed to stay behind with Aaron. And they sat there in silence; sometimes Aaron quietly sobbed. And they waited for word that the burial had been done, so that they could commence their period of mourning.

Just then one messenger came in slowly and began to softly inform them that the funeral had concluded. He seemed about to try to offer some words of comfort, but he was jostled aside by another messenger who stumbled into the tent in a panic. “Quick, you must come!” he cried. “There is no water! The well has suddenly run dry and the people are coming this way. They are beside themselves!”

Moses and Aaron snapped to attention, got up, grabbed their staffs and went out to face the angry crowd. They left the tent without even getting to tear their clothing in Miriam’s honor.

To this I bear witness – Joshua, son of Nun

And there was no water for the community; and they crowded upon Moses and Aaron.” (v. 2)

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi David Greenstein


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image:  “Riviera Nayarit” © Steven Leonti used with permission via Creative Commons

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