Parashat Chukat

What a sad parashah...!


A parashah in which there are important farewells and major losses.


The first is the death of Miryam. So it begins. Beyond the loss of Miryam as a leader and a constant adviser to her brothers Moshe and Aharon, since leaving Egypt she always meant to be a source of inspiration both as a head among the women of the people and with their special relationship with water.


Our tradition teaches us that, because of Miryam, there was a well of water that accompanied Bnei Israel throughout their journey through the desert. It stopped when the people did and "set in motion" when the people moved, ensuring them the necessary water supply.


The question that arises is: what happened after Miryam passed away? The water began to run out and the people started complaining again. Once more, they said they would not have been deprived had they remained in Egypt.


Then a second episode occurs. It almost goes unnoticed, or, at least, with minimal importance next to the impact it really has. I am referring to the moment of Mei Merivah. The exact point in which Moshe loses the possibility of entering the Promised Land by hitting the stone, so that water comes out, instead of asking for it, as commanded by the Kadosh Baruch Hu.


No one regrets the fact. The story continues as if nothing had happened and a terrible sentence is pronounced for Moshe. His task now becomes to take Bnei Israel only to the entrance to Canaan; he will be able to see the full extent of the Promised Land from afar, but he will never enter it.


As if all this were not enough, the story continues with Aharon's death, the High Priest of the people. The one who was said to always strive to mediate and pursue peace among them. Aharon dies and the cloud that accompanied and protected the people and told them when to stop and when to leave... disappears. The divine presence that seemed to protect the people even in battle was gone.


I would say that this is the parashah of the Bar Mitzvah of Bnei Israel.


In a single parashah, the people must learn to fend for themselves; they know that their chiefs are not going to be around anymore, anytime soon. It is the warning that a leader is not eternal. That God's help and support must be sustained by the commitment of each one, and not only by the decisions, skills or virtue of a guide.


When we put our hands to work and join together in a joint construction task, Parashat Chukat teaches us that miracles and help are achieved in our daily work.

Even the great leaders must learn to let the people grow and allow the advent of new commanders. Moshe understood this. His greatness could also be seen in how he prepared his successor, Yehoshua, for the enormous task of directing the people towards the conquest of Canaan—the land that would flow with milk and honey, but that he would never taste.


Gustavo Geier