“The World stands on three things, Torah, Avodah (service), and G'meelut Chasadim (acts of kindness). Pirke Avot 1:2
Parshas Chukas continues with the discussion of Miriam’s death. In the fortieth year in the desert, Bnai Israel endured a national tragedy, Miriam passed away at the age of one hundred and twenty five. Just as Moshe had been a spiritual leader for the men of Bnai Israel, Miriam was his feminine counterpart. She guided the women and was one of the seven prophetesses. The Torah positions Miriam’s death and the laws of the para aduma together to portray that the death of a tzaddik atones for the sins of the nation, just as the para aduma is an atonement for those who are impure.
Moreover, in Miriam’s merit, Hashem provided Bnai Israel with the Well of Miriam, which sustained Bnai Israel for forty years in the desert. When she died, the well stopped flowing, because Hashem wanted the nation to recognize that the well had been supplied to the people on behalf of her merit and good deeds.
The quote from Pirke Avot- Ethics of our Forefathers- teaches us that these three attributes, Torah, avoda, and chesed, are essential to our very existence. Miriam, who was known for her acts of kindness, devoted her life to other people. (Moshe personified Torah study, and Aaron personified Avoda- service to Hashem). As a young child she assisted her mother, who was a midwife, and brought food to the poor. Because of her continuous kindness to others, Hashem blessed Bnai Israel with water, which is vital to human physical survival. Similarly, just as water is essential to our physical survival, so to is kindness essential to our spiritual survival. Without constantly exerting ourselves to assist others, who are we? If we cannot act selflessly, what are we? We need to constantly push ourselves to commit acts of kindness. Just as Bnai Israel was blessed in Miriam’s merit, so too will our families and generations after be blessed continuously.