The Legacies of our Three Greatest Leaders

In Parshat Chukat we read about the deaths of both Miriam and Aharon.

Miraim's death is recorded in Bamidbar 20:1: "The entire community of B'nai Yisrael came to the wilderness of Tzin in the first month. They settled in Kadesh and Miriam died and was buried there."

Aharon's death is recorded in Bamidbar 20:28: "Moshe removed Aharon's vestments and dressed Aharon's son Elazar in them. Aharon died there on top of the mountain and Moshe and Elazar descended from the mountain. The entire community saw that Aharon died and they wept for Aharon thirty days, the entire house of Israel."

The Gemara in Taanit 9a states: Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Yehudah says: Three excellent leaders arose for Israel. They are: Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. Because of them, three excellent gifts were bestowed upon Israel: The well, the pillar of cloud and the manna. The well was provided in the merit of Miriam, the pillar of cloud in the merit of Aharon and the manna in the merit of Moshe.

What exactly was this well? According to Rashi on Taanit 9a, the well was a rock that produced water and rolled along with B'nai Yisrael during their travels in the desert.

When Miriam died the well disappeared as it says in Bamidbar 20:1 "And Miriam died there". Immediately following that pasuk it says "and there was no water for the community to drink."

The well returned in the Merit of Moshe and Aharon. According to Rashi, the rock from which Moshe was able to produce water was the same rock that had served as the well during Miriam's lifetime.

The Gemara continues: When Aharon died, the ananei hakavod, clouds of glory disappeared as it says in Bamidbar 21:1 (the pasuk immediately following the account of Aharon's death) "And the Canaanite King of Arad heard.and fought against Israel". What report did he hear that prompted him to attack Israel? He heard that Aharon had died and that the clouds of glory had disappeared and he thought that he was free to wage war against Israel.

The Gemara continues: The well and the clouds of glory returned in the merit of Moshe. When Moshe died, the well, clouds of glory and manna disappeared.

Our three greatest leaders never had the opportunity to enter the Land of Israel, yet they left their legacies behind for future generations. We must all make a conscious effort to recognize Israel's importance and appreciate any opportunities that we may have to spend time here.