Torah Tidbits

27 August 2014 / 1 Elul 5774
Issue 1048
Shabbat Parshat Chukat
June 13, 2013

Chizuk and Idud

CHIZUK and IDUD for Olim not yet Olim respectively

Water is an extremely precious commodity in the Middle East. Some military analysts predict that future wars will revolve around this issue, with the next casus belli, one nation diverting a shared water source for its own use.
Ever since we came on Aliyah some thirty years ago, one of the curious features of life in Israel has been the media’s almost daily reports on the water level of the Kinneret. 
For many years the shrinking levels of Israel’s largest groundwater basin (providing 27% of the national production) would lead to serious discussions of the pros and cons of importing water in huge tankers from countries such as Turkey. This past year the talk of importing water has subsided. We were blessed with an over average rainfall, and that coupled with the efforts of the desalination plants, have at least temporarily placed the tankers off our radar screen. Yet, the fact remains that water is essential for daily living. (The young potential Oleh, pondering career options, might be wise to consider studying hydrology or hydrogeology, desalination engineering or water management…)
I am reminded of all of this because of this week’s Parasha. Throughout our great sojourn in the desert, wandering for forty years, the nation’s prodigious water needs were filled by Miriam’s well. The Torah tells us that the People of Israel would sing the praises of this well (Bamidbar 21:17) - “Ali Be’er..”, “Spring up O well”, and some explain that in response, water would be provided.
The miraculous source of this necessary substance of life ceased to provide water upon Miriam’s death. Our Sages teach us, however, that the well did not dry up - it relocated. The Talmud (Shabbat 35a) records Rabbi Chiya’s saying: “He who wishes to see the well of Miriam should ascend Mount Carmel and he will see the well ‘like a sieve in the sea’”. However, as reported in other sources (Yerushalmi Ketubot 12:3; Kilayim 9:3) Rabbi Chiya was not referring to the Mediterranean Sea but rather to the Kinneret (“the Sea of Tiberias”). (Perhaps one should read Mt. Arbel rather than Mt. Carmel - Josh Waxman). Legend has it that the Ari HaKadosh took Rav Chaim Vital for a boat ride on the Kinneret and showed him the exact position of Miriam’s well situated opposite the remains of the main synagogue in Tiberias.
Life in Israel raises the mundane to a higher level. The careful attention paid to the annual rainfall, or even a hot summer day’s swim in the Kinneret, can intimately connect us to our heritage, and to our forefathers’ desert experiences. Unlike Miami Beach or Coney Island, the Kinneret is more than simply a nice place to cool off in the summer. When you next jump in for a refreshing dip, thank Hashem and echo the words sung by the People of Israel (Bamidbar 21:17) Ali Be’er… Spring up, O well; sing to it”!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness, Ramat Shiloh, Beit Shemesh

TORAH THOUGHTS as contributed by Aloh Naaleh members for publication in the Orthodox Union’s ‘Torah Insights’, a weekly Torah publication on Parshat HaShavu’a

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