CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON PARSHAS CHUKAS 5775 - BS"D
1) Ch. 19, v. 23: "Vatomos shom Miriam" - And Miriam died there - This verse follows immediately after the chapter of "poroh adumoh." Psikta Zut'r'sa 16:2 derives from this that just as "poroh adumoh" brings atonement (This is derived from the words "chatos hee" in verse nine.), so too, the death of the righteous provides atonement. The gemara Mo'eid Koton 28a says that the death of Aharon's two sons, Nodov and Avihu, although it took place at the beginning of the month Nison, is recorded next to the Yom Kippur services to teach us that just as Yom Kippur offers atonement, so too, does the death of the righteous. The question arising from these two statements is obvious. Why is there a need for two sources for the same point?
2) Ch. 20, v. 1: "Vatomos shom Miriam" - And Miriam died there - The gemara M.K. 28a says that the Miriam's death is recorded next to the parshas of "poroh adumoh" to teach us that just as sacrifices bring atonement, so too, the death of the righteous brings atonement. Why was her death placed specifically next to "poroh adumoh," which technically is not even a sacrifice, rather than next to a true sacrifice?
3) Ch. 20, v. 5: "Lo m'kome zera" - Not a place of sowing - Tosfos on the gemara Chulin 88b d.h. "ela" writes that when then bnei Yisroel were in the desert plants grew. If this were so why did they complain that this was not a place of sowing?
4) Ch. 20, v. 27: "Va'yaas Moshe kaasher tzivoh Hashem …… l'ei'nei kol ho'eidoh" - And Moshe did as Hashem commanded …… in sight of all the congregation - How was this "as Hashem commanded"? In verse 25 Hashem commands Moshe to ascend Hor Hohor with Aharon and Elozor, but without mentioning to do this in the public view.
Ch. 20, v. 28: "Va'yomos Aharon" - And Aharon died - The gemara Sotoh 14a says that Moshe fought valiantly to be allowed entry into Eretz Yisroel. We find that he even entreated Hashem with 515 prayers (the numerical value of the word "vo'es'chanan) to be allowed entry. Yet here we find Aharon going placidly to his death with nary a wave of reluctance. Why did he not pray as Moshe did?
1) The Torah states a few reasons for the death of Nodov and Avihu, while it gives no reason for Miriam's death (This was dealt with in a previous edition of Sedrah Selections). Perhaps, from the death of Nodov and Avihu we learn that sins in the realm of "mishpotim" are forgiven, in step with their deaths being understood, while sins of the "chukim" type being forgiven is derived from Miriam's death. (Nirreh li)
2) Yom Kippur offers atonement, while "poroh adumoh," albeit that it is called "chatos," actually offers only purification. Possibly from Yom Kippur we derive that sins are forgiven, but some taint of the sin, the stain on the soul, remains. The second source teaches us that the soul is purified, similar to "poroh adumoh."
3) There are sins that are personal, i.e. they only directly impact on the person himself, and there are sins that impact on the broader community. Nodov and Avihu were righteous people who kept to themselves, as indicated by the words "uvonim lo hoyu lo'hem" (Bmidbar 3:4), they had no children, no students. Miriam was very communal minded, as evidenced by her saving Jewish males in Egypt from death, and her arousing all the women to sing praise to Hashem at Yam Suf. The lesson from Nodov and Avihu's death is that personal sins are forgiven, and Miriam's death teaches that sins that impact on the community are also forgiven. (Nirreh li)
Perhaps this is because we have no very compelling reason for Miriam's death in the desert, which in turn kept her from entering Eretz Yisroel (see Kli Yokor on Dvorim ch. 1). This is similar to our not comprehending the laws of "poroh adumoh." (Nirreh li)
The Rsha"sh asks this question. It would seem that based on Tosfos's statement and the ensuing difficulty posed by the Rsha"sh the wording of our verse is very precise. They did not complain that there was no growth, but rather, that it was not a PLACE for sowing. At the present vegetation grew as long as there was an abundance of water from the wellspring of Miriam. Now that it came to a stop they complained that on a natural level things would now not grow, as intrinsically, the desert is a LOCATION where plants don't grow. (Nirreh li)
The gemara K'subos 17 says that when a master teacher passes on there should be 600,000 people in attendance at his funeral because, just as the Torah was given in the presence of 600,000 people, so too, when a person who is the human embodiment of the Torah, is taken from us, there should be 600,000 people present. Hashem did not command Moshe to have 600,000 people present.
The above-mentioned gemara says that Moshe did not pray to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel to simply enjoy its produce, but rather, to fulfill the mitzvos that come with agricultural activities. Aharon had the same interest, but realized that as a Kohein, he would be the recipient of vast amounts of agricultural benefits from tithes, etc. So that people not suspect him of the wrong intentions he made no waves of resistance.
Alternatively, Aharon was quite satisfied with being witness to his son taking over his exalted position, knowing that this would continue in Eretz Yisroel. Unfortunately, Moshe knew that his position would not be an inheritance to his son. (Toldos Yitzchok)
Shemen Sosone writes in the name of the Ari z"l that Aharon's soul transmigrated into Eli haKohein, and later into Ezra haKohein the sofer. Rabbi Moshe Zakuta writes that it because of this that Aharon made no efforts to enter Eretz Yisroel. He knew that his reincarnated soul would be the Kohein Godol in Eretz Yisroel in later generations.
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