Masei

In the Haftara for the second Shabbat of Bein HaMeitzarim (Masei, this year) we read from Sefer Yirmiyahu. 2:13 states:

 כִּי שְׁתַּיִם רָעוֹת עָשָׂה עַמִּי אֹתִי עָזְבוּ מְקוֹר מַיִם חַיִּים לַחְצֹב לָהֶם בֹּארוֹת–בֹּארֹת נִשְׁבָּרִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָכִלוּ הַמָּיִם
“For My nation has committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, a source of flowing water, to dig for themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that cannot contain water.” 

Acting as a conduit of Hashem’s words, Yirmiyahu tells Bnei Yisrael that not only have they abandoned Hashem, but they have done so in favor of “broken cisterns” — foreign nations and empty beliefs that offer no meaning, benefit or security.

Rav Mendel Hirsch (son of Rav Shimshon Rephael), in his commentary on the Haftarot, points out that the Hebrew word used for “cisterns” is borot – a term typically meaning “pits,” such as in Breishis 37:24, when Yosef’s brother throw him in a pit:  וְהַבּוֹר רֵק אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם  
The word here, however, is spelled with a silent letter Alef, as if it were to read as be’eirot, or “wells.”  

Rav Hirsch suggests that this spelling accurately reflects Am Yisrael’s misguided perspective, decried by Yirmiyahu.  A bor/pit is an empty, vacuous hole in the ground. A be’eir, by contrast, is a hole that contains something of value and substance, namely water. Yirmiyahu is bemoaning the fact that Bnei Yisrael tragically looked upon borot – worthless, hollow beliefs – as be’eirot – things of substance and meaning. The word borot is spelled in such a way that it externally resembles the word be’eirot, alluding to the misplaced perception of value and significance that attracted Bnei Yisrael to people and ideas that were actually vacuous and valueless.

During the Three Weeks, it is particularly important to distinguish between those things that may be attractive but have little value, and those that have true meaning and help us draw closer to Hashem and the ultimate Geulah. The value assigned by society or pop culture to what are essentially empty borot, can often give the deceptive appearance of being be’eirot. It is during this difficult, painful and introspective time of Bein HaMeitzarim, that we have the opportunity to correct our ways, and appreciate the value, dedicate the time and carefully distinguish between borot and be’eirot; between that which is empty and worthless, and that which is meaningful and precious.

I would like to humbly suggest a connection between be’eirot, geulah and Miriam HaNeviah:

Rav Yossi bar Yehuda, in Ta’anis 9a, says that the gift of the “traveling” well that Bnei Yisrael were afforded in the desert, was in the merit of Miriam. What was it about Miriam’s life or actions that precipitated this miracle? Although the Torah does not provide lengthy narratives about Miriam’s life, we find her at two extremely pivotal moments, both connected to water:

Once, as a watchful sister, standing at the edge of Nile, as her baby brother – the future savior of Am Yisrael – tosses along the river in a basket, eventually safely arriving at the feet of Paraoh’s daughter. Shmos 2:4:  וַתֵּתַצַּב אֲחֹתוֹ מֵרָחֹק
A second time, it is Miriam who rouses the nation into songs of gratitude and joy to Hashem after the harrowing experience of the Egyptians chasing after Bnei Yisrael, but making it safely through the parted waters to safety.
Rav Baruch Simon, in ma’amar 7 on Parshas B’haaloscha in his sefer Imrei Baruch, quotes a Midrash on Mishlei, which says that the passuk in 31:17 of Mishlei refers to Miriam. We may better know this passuk as the 8th verse in Aishes Chayil:
חָגְרָה בְעוֹז מָתְנֶיהָ וַתְּאַמֵּץ זְרוֹעֹתֶיהָ

She girds her loins with strength, and makes strong her arms.

This passuk is about sticking to your beliefs and emunahMiriam epitomizes emunah; she stood by the Nile and believed that, although nothing about the laws of nature would dictate that a baby floating on the Nile toward Paraoh’s palace could not only survive but become the savior of the Jewish people, there was still every reason to have hope, and have confidence in the prophecy she was given – that her mother would give birth to a son who would be the moshia of Bnei Yisrael. She also arranges for Yocheved, Moshe’s natural birth mother, to nurse him — again securing Moshe’s survival (see Shmos 2:7-9). She was mitzapeh l’yeshua.

After Krias Yam Suf — i.e. looming waters that once stood between their enemies and their freedom — Miriam bursts forward in song and praise, rejoicing that those who enslaved her people were vanquished, and they were now on the path to receive the Torah and enter Eretz Yisrael.

Like a cool, refreshing water revives an anxious and parched traveler, Miriam buoys Bnei Yisrael’s waning spirits with her unwavering emunah.
Thousands of years of waiting for the geula - suffering through pogroms, attempted genocide, ongoing battles for our tiny homeland, and excruciating loss – can, G-d forbid, cause us to lose our way, seek comfort in emptiness, and relinquish hope. We are implored in this week’s Haftorah, not to do so. We are reminded that the be’eir of Miriam was a reward for her deep-seeded emunah. Instead of becoming depressed, overtaken or distracted by what was happening around her, she “kept the faith.”

Perhaps symbolically, when one is in need of water and digs a hole in the ground, there is no promise that water will be discovered. Sometimes there is nothing but dirt and an empty hole. Sometimes we finally discover wells, but they get sabotaged by Plishtim (as Yitzchak Avinu encountered in Breishis 26:15-33. Parenthetically, Yitzchak establishes Be’er Sheva at the end of this section, and so: Sometimes you set up cities named after wells “ad hayom hazeh,” and it is the target of constant missile attacks…).

But instead of losing hope, or filling that figurative hole or disappointing void in one’s life with other empty beliefs or objects, we are to follow in Miriam HaNeviah’s footsteps and continue searching for a be’eir of water, for mayim chayim (Torah)in song and dance, and ultimately merit Yishayahu’s prophecy:

וּשְׁאַבְתֶּם מַיִם בְּשָׂשׂוֹן מִמַּעַיְנֵי הַיְשׁוּעָה

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>