Parshas Chukas – The Living Years

Athlete DrinkingImagine doing a strenuous workout outside on a ninety degree summer’s day. Workout was tough — but you did it. You feel good. Invigorated. You go inside your house & you are thinking about one thing & one thing only – WATER. Water for a cold drink, water for a hot shower.  You open the fridge – NO WATER. You turn on the tap – NO WATER.


Now you know what the Jews felt like in the desert.

In this week’s Parsha, we find the Jewish people continuing their journey through the desert, arriving in Kadesh, and realizing that there was no water to be found. They were (understandably) not very happy & bitterly complained to Moshe & Aaron.

This begs the obvious question: This was their 40th year traveling through the DESERT (I don’t think there were any rest stops!) — where exactly did they get water until now?

The Talmud asks this question & answers that throughout the 40 year journey God provided the Jewish people with a miraculous fresh water well that followed them along on their way. This however, simply raises another question – what changed? Where did this well go? Why did it stop? Did Moses forget to pay the water bill?

The Talmud says that the answer can be found by looking at the juxtaposition of the verses in the Torah “Miriam died . . . and there was no water.” The miraculous well was in the merit of the righteous prophetess Miriam. No Miriam, No water.

However, as the Torah explicitly tells us – the water DID return – and the Talmud says that it returned in the merit of Miriam’s brothers Moshe & Aaron.

A number of commentaries raise the obvious question: If Moshe & Aaron had the merit to bring the water back – what was the point of taking it away on the first place?

It seems to me that the answer can be summed up in one word: “Appreciation.” All during the forty years the Jewish people took this miracle for granted & didn’t appreciate it.  They didn’t appreciate the water & they didn’t appreciate Miriam — she never got as much as a simple “thank you.”

God wanted to teach them an important lesson – if you don’t appreciate something – you may  have to lose it to really come to realize its value.

There was a song that was popular when I was a teenager called “The Living Years.” Although I haven’t heard the song in decades I still remember some of the poignant lyrics — “It’s too late when we die . . . I wish I would have told him in the living years.”

We all have special people in our lives, wonderful people who bring us wonderful gifts. No doubt after the water was gone the Jews realized how special Miriam was. Don’t make the mistake of the Jews in the desert — appreciate the special people in our lives and thank them today for the blessings they are and the special blessings they bring us.

And next time you open up your fridge and there IS refreshing cold water, raise the glass, make a blessing, and thank God for the wonderful gift of water. No need to wait until something is gone to appreciate it – let’s do it today, here & now, in the words of the song – “Say it loud, say it clear . . . in the Living Years.”

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