In the Haftara for the second Shabbat of Bein HaMeitzarim (Masei, this year) we read from Sefer Yirmiyahu. 2:13 states:
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 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:
חָגְרָה בְעוֹז מָתְנֶיהָ וַתְּאַמֵּץ זְרוֹעֹתֶיהָ
She girds her loins with strength, and makes strong her arms.
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.
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: