Category Archives: Parshat חקת

Parshat חקת – Numbers 20:2 – In Whose Merit Was the Well?

Numbers 20:2 – The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.

Gemora Taanit 9a: It was taught in a Beraita as follows: Rabbi Yosi the son of Rabbi Yehuda said that the Well was given through the merit of Miriam. Therefore, when Miriam died, the Well ceased. This is proven by the verses that state “Miriam died and there was no water for the congregation.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #8

Note also the Gemora in Baba Metzia 87b where it states that the Well was given due to the merit of Abraham’s stating to his guests “let a little water be brought [for you]” (Genesis 18:4). The Maharsha asks how can it say here in our Gemora that the Well was due to the Merit of Miriam? Also, what would it mean to refer to it as the Well of Miriam if it was given due to the merit of Abraham? The Maharsha’s response is that if God had considered only the merit of Abraham, the Well would have lasted only for a short period of time. It was only through the merit of Miriam that it lasted all forty years that they were in the desert.

These words of the Maharsha seem not to make sense. How could he possibly say that Miriam’s merit was greater than Abraham’s and say that Abraham’s merit would have sufficed only for the Well to last a short period of time?!

It appears to me that the explanation of the difference between these two Gemoras is that because of the merit of Abraham, the Jews merited to have a woman of Miriam’s qualities who then, in her merit, the Well would be given that would last forty years. In this same manner are we able to explain other examples where the Pillar of Fire and the Manna are also attributed to Abraham and Also to Aaron and Moshe respectively.

Editor’s Note: I appreciated the Torah Temimah’s solution that gives honor and glory to both Abraham and Miriam and does not diminish either one.

Parshat חקת – Bamidbar 20:1 – Did Miriam Die for Our Sins?

Bamidbar 20:1 – The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

Gemora Moed Kattan 28a: It was taught in a Beraisa as follows: Rabbi Ami asked why is the narrative of the death of Miriam adjacent to the narrative of the Red Cow? He answered: to teach that just as the Red Cow atones for sins, so does the death of the righteous atone for sins.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #2

One needs to ask why the narrative of Miriam’s death is adjacent to the story of the Red Cow, specifically, and not next to many of the other ceremonies that also are meant to achieve atonement such as sacrifices or the clothing of the high priest. Perhaps one can explain the answer according to that which is stated by Rashi in the previous chapter (19:22) that the Red Cow is meant to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. This is analogous to the mother coming and atoning for her child. In other words, the mother cow (Red Cow) is atoning for the calf (Golden Calf). Then with a slight linguistic change, one can say that this is similar to the death of Miriam in her role as the mother to the Jewish People.

[On the other hand] it is not clear what is meant, in general, by the statement that the death of the righteous people [somehow] cause an atonement and what would be the reasoning behind such a statement. Perhaps the answer is in accordance with the statement in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 17) when it discusses the death of Shaul (in Samuel 2, Chapter 21) where it states

“And they buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the sepulcher of Kish his father; and they did all that the king commanded. And God was entreated for the land after that.”

Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer states that since God saw that the Jewish people dealt kindly [appropriately] with Shaul’s body [after his death] in that they fasted and cried and eulogized him, God then was filled with mercy towards the Jewish people. This is the meaning of the phrase “And God was entreated for the land after that.”

Thus, it is clear from here that it isn’t the death, itself, that causes the atonement. Rather, the mourning and the honor that are given to a great person who has passed away is what what causes God to [in a corresponding way] look kindly on the Jewish people because the honor that the people are showing to the great person is, essentially, showing honor to God.

Editor’s Note: The idea that the death of a righteous person somehow, magically, causes atonement to the living is a foreign concept to Judaism. The Torah Temimah is pointing out, in this note, that it is not the death itself that causes God to show mercy to the living; rather it is the kind manner and loving mourning for the deceased that arouses God’s mercy.


Parsahat חקת – Bamidbar 19:14 – Non-Jews Learning Torah

Bamidbar 19:14: This is the law: if a man {adam] dies in a tent, anyone entering the tent and anything in the tent shall be unclean for seven days.

Gemora Yevamot 61a: We learn in a Beraitha that Shimon Bar Yochai says that the graves of non-Jews do not impart levitical uncleanness by an ohel [tent methodology], for it is said, [In Ezekiel 34] “And ye My sheep the sheep of My pasture, are men”; you are called men but the non-Jews are not called men.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #67:

Many commentators had difficulty explaining this Gemora. Tosafot additionally asks [how this Gemora can make sense] regarding the many places [in the Gemora] where the word “adam” specifically does include non-Jews. Further, Tosafot ask [a challenge to this Gemora] based on the Gemora in Sanhedrin 59a where it says that even a non-Jew who occupies himself with [the study of] is as great as a high priest (Cohen). We learn this teaching from the verse that says “these are the commandments that the man (ha’adam) should do, that he may live through them”. The teaching continues that the verse does not say, “That the Cohanim, Leviim or Israelim should do them rather it says “ha’adam” to teach that even a non-Jew who learns Torah is as great as a high priest”. Tosafot then answer their question by quoting Rabbenu Tam and stating that there is a distinction between the word “adam” [man] and the word “ha’adam” [the man] and they state that the word “ha’adam” [the man] would include non-Jews [but the word “adam” would not.] Apparently these words of Tosafot are only based on a tradition that they heard, since how can this distinction make sense logically? Many commenters have already tried to understand this explanation of the Tosafot; the commenters have toiled and labored to find a source for the Tosafot’s opinion.

It is [perhaps] possible to explain that the word “the” doesn’t apply [or make sense] when applied to a proper noun such as “the Moshe” or “the Aaron”. On the other hand the word “the” does make sense when applied to a word that includes a general category such as “the city”, “the river”, “the mountain”, “the valley”. This being the case it is possible to say that when “man” is written without “the”, it describes a particular noun, Israel [Jews] while when it is written “the man”, it includes a more general category such as the nations of the world. This explanation is a little forced.

This previous paragraph I have written just as an effort to explain and make sense of the words of Rabbenu Tam, which are apparently very astounding [and difficult to understand]. However, according to the truth, it appears that the simple understanding of the Gemora is not to imply that non-Jews are not included in the word “man”. How could that make sense? Behold this word is used to discuss the health of the body and the soul of the human species. Further, we find in many many verses where the word “man” even describes only non-Jews.

Rather, what our Gemora is saying is that in the places where God is speaking to the Jews regarding Torah and [ritual] commandments and He uses the word “man”, it is to be understood as meaning Jews and not non-Jews since they are not included in the [ritual] commandments. The Gemora then utilizes the verse in Ezekiel to say that the Jews are called “man”. However, this verse is not brought as a proof text rather as a hint or general allusion. This is also the opinion of the “Gritz Chiyut”. The particulars of the laws regarding levitical uncleanliness and non-Jews are explained in Yoreh Deah Section 372.

Editor’s note: The Torah Temimah, in this note, discusses Jewish views regarding non-Jews. In other notes, he makes the point, emphatically, that the term idolaters used the Gemora does not apply to the non-Jews of modern times but rather to the “wild people of Africa and other faraway places” who have not accepted the Seven Noachide Laws. The Torah Temimah equates the Seven Noachide Laws as an acceptance of the basic social contract that binds society together. Thus, he makes the statement that for civil laws in the modern era, Halacha regarding Jews and non-Jews is equal. For religious laws, he says that it is logical that Jewish ritual law distinguishes between Jew and non-Jew.