Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Chukat - 5774

My friends,

Last week and the week before we read how it was decreed that the Children of Israel will wander in the wilderness for 40 years. This week we jump to that 40th year. The old generation has died and we are ready to enter the Promised Land. We read about the passing of Miriam and Aaron, two of the three leaders of the Israelites who have been with them since the liberation from Egypt. Miriam dies in he wilderness of Zin. Immediately, the Torah tell us that there was no water for the people and they complained to Moses. You are familiar with the story of how Moses hits a rock and water comes out of the rock.

The closeness of Miriam's death to the lack of water moves our sages to say that throughout the wandering in the wilderness, the people had water because of the merit of Miriam, who had waited by the water, to see what happens to Moses when he was placed in a basket by the reeds. Her reward was that the people got water for 40 years because of that act of kindness. Now that she had died, there was no more water. Miriam's well had disappeared.

Message one: An act of kindness goes a long way.

The death of Aaron is recorded as follows: They arrive at Mount Hor. G-d tell Moses that the time has come for Aaron to die. He is to take Aaron together with his son Eleazar to the top of he mountain. There he will remove the Priestly garments from Aaron and put them on Aaron's son Eleazar. Aaron will die and Eleazar will become the High Priest. We can only imagine how hard it must have been for Moses to tell his brother that they are going up to Mount Hor because Aaron will die there. What words could Moses have used to comfort his brother?

Rashi tells us that Moses used the occasion to comfort his brother by saying, "You are so fortunate that before you die you can see how your son will take over for you and follow in your footsteps. When I die, however, my children will not become the leaders of the Israelites.

We all want to leave a legacy to our children. We are happy when we know that they will follow in our footsteps and will cherish those values that were important to us. When we leave this world, we take nothing with us. We are blessed when our children - or those upon whom we had an impact - can continue to hold on to those values that were most important to us. That is how we are remembered and that is how we become eternal and will always be remembered among the living.

What is your legacy?

Shabbat Shalom,