Human beings have several basic needs: food, water and protection from the elements. In the desert, these necessities can be difficult to come by. During the Children of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, these needs were taken care of by God. For general shelter, God gave them the Ananei Hakavod, the Clouds of Glory. For more personal protection, He maintained the Israelites’ clothing so that there was no need to wash or mend. The food eaten by the Israelites was manna, a substance from heaven that the people collected each morning except for on Shabbat. Food and shelter thus provided, that leaves only the issue of water to drink.
According to tradition, as the Children of Israel traveled through the wilderness, they were accompanied by a well of clean, potable water. In fact, Rashi explains that it was “a rock from which would issue forth water. It would roll along and accompany the people of Israel (in their wanderings from place to place)” (Rashi on Talmud Taanit 9a). This rock is referred to as the Well of Miriam. It is associated with Miriam because it is written in Numbers 20, “and Miriam died there and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation.” (Numbers 20:1-2). The proximity of these two verses implies that the water was provided in Miriam’s merit. When she died, the well ceased to meet this need.
It is interesting to note that the sages declared that this miraculous well was one of ten objects created at twilight on the eve of the first Shabbat (Ethics of the Fathers 5:8), and, therefore, it is an eternal object that was relocated into the Lake of Tiberius (Leviticus Rabbah 22:5).
Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.