And Miriam died there… And there was no water for the congregation (20:1-2)
The history of Miriam’s Well is not written explicitly in the Torah text but only allusively. The allusions are brought out in the Aramaic Targum (Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible).
Miriam is associated with (according to Midrashic lore) the rolling well that accompanied the Jewish people on their wanderings and provided fresh water in the desert, not only for the people, but also for their cattle and sheep. It also made the desert bloom with green pastures and beautifully.
When she died a strange thing happened. The well suddenly dried up, and the rock from which the water used to flow disappeared among the other rocks in the desert and the people gathered against Moses and Aaron (Num. 20:1-2).
The description in Num. 20 of the death of Miriam is immediately followed by the episode of the Waters of Meribah. The Rabbis learn from this juxtaposition that Miriam’s death resulted in the dearth of water; they accredited to her the existence of the well that accompanied the Israelites on their wanderings in the wilderness and provided them with drinking water. The well, according to the Rabbis, was one of the things created on the eve of the Sabbath at twilight (Avot 5:6); they depict it as a wondrous well that flowed from itself, like a rock full of holes (T Sukkah 3:11).
In Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 30, the well of Hagar is none other than the healing well the Divine made at the dawn of Creation. This well later accompanies the Israelites through the desert and becomes known as Miriam’s well.
In the Torah, just after Miriam dies, the people complain they have no water to drink. Rabbinic interpreters conclude the well dried up when Miriam died (Song of Songs Rabbah 4:14). Only after Moses goes into the wilderness to search for it does the well reappear. But the well is not gone. The Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 35a) tells us the well can be found to this day in the waters of the Sea of Galilee.
The Me’am Loez (commentary on the Hebrew Bible written in Ladino) explains that the “Well of Miriam” was more to the Israelites than just their source of water. When the leading clouds came to a stop it indicated to the nation that they should make camp. The arrangement of the camp as detailed in the beginning of the Book of Bamidbar was deliberate and divine, and directed initially by the Well, which would move to the very center of the camp, marking the position of the Tabernacle. The Well then overflowed and created a canal system that delineated the placement and boundaries of each tribe within the desert encampment.
The Tosefta (compilation of the Jewish oral traditions) describes it: “… like a rock full of holes, trickled and rose like the water of this small jug, it ascended mountains with them and descended to the valleys with them….the princes of Israel surrounded it with their staffs and recited over it the song “Rise up Well and answer her, rise up Well and answer her” (see Bamidbar 21:17), and it bubbled and rose upwards like a pillar”. (Sukkah 3:11)
When they entered the Land under Yehoshua, the Well also entered the land. It traveled to the Kinneret (Sea of Gallilee), where it is said to be visible from mountains to the east as a kind of “sieve” on the surface of the sea. From the depths of the Kinneret, the Well is said to feed the waters of Israel’s most important water reserve. The conquest of the Land depends upon Miriam’s Well — the Well of Torah insight and inspiration.
For they drank of that spiritual Rock – Of the waters which flowed from that Rock. The Rock here is called “spiritual,” not from anything special in the nature of the rock, but because it was the source to them of supernatural mercies, and became thus the emblem and demonstration of the divine favor and of spiritual mercies conferred upon them by HaShem.
Admor (Morainu / our teacher, VeRabbeinu / and our Rabbi) speaks as stood before the Samaritan woman at the well, he spoke to her of a well, a makor (fountain): himself: “Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; But anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: The water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside welling up to eternal life.” (Yochanan 4:14)
Mashiach is that well for us – he is the source or the fountain of mayim chayim (fountain of living waters). As Miriam tapped into this well, so should we too…
Mashiach’s Torah is perfect and good for us; His way is a true way of peace. His Torah is the Torah of HaShem, the Torah of Israel. Mashiach elevates Torah to a higher level, NOT annul it. Mashiach’s Torah must enter us, and feed our soul with the true water of HaShem.
Ask HaShem be’zechut (in the merit of) Maran Yeshua HaMashiach to help us to draw near to Him, to attach ourselves to Him. To love His Torah as our Rabbi, Yeshua taught us!