In Chukat, this week’s parasha, the prophet Miriam dies. After she’s buried, the scene abruptly shifts to the lack of water in the wilderness. We’re left wondering: How did the people mourn her loss? To get water, G-d tells Moses to gather the people and speak with a rock. Instead, Moses strikes the rock with his staff. Water pours out. Rabbi Sharyn Henry notes that Moses hasn’t yet mourned for Miriam. Striking the rock, she says, is his reaction to unexpressed grief. The water and his tears are the same. This prayer is based on Rabbi Henry’s midrash.
Let the well of living waters
Flow through me
From the Source,
From ancient pools
Of holiness and light,
Ancient pools that sustain the body
And soothe the heart.
My grief has turned
My heart to stone,
My sorrow and loneliness
Have hardened my veins.
Crack me open with Your divine rod.
Release my tears with your staff.
Let me know wholeness
© 2015 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.
Postscript: As a result of striking the rock, Moses is denied entry to the Promised Land. Rabbis have struggled with explaining why so small a sin would yield so major a punishment. One common explanation is that, with his act, Moses diminished a miracle of G-d. I propose taking Rabbi Henry’s midrash a step further to explain Moses’ punishment, as well. Moses has a direct and intimate relationship with G-d; we’re told that that relationship is unlike any that came before or will come after. Instead of turning to G-d for healing, Moses holds his grief inside and finally lashes out. He, of all people, should have known to turn to G-d. Perhaps his sin can be understood as withdrawing from G-d. For Moses, that would be quite a sin, indeed.
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