Moed Kattan 28a– Why is the death of Miriam next to the parsha of the Parah Adumah? Because just as the Parah brings foregiveness, so, too, the death of a Tzidkanis (or Tzadik) is mechapeir.
Rabbeinu Chananel there says that from the fact that the Parah is called a Chatas it is evident that it must be a mechapeir. This is how we know that it brings kapparah, and so the contiguity to the death of Miriam acquires a message of Kapparah.
Reb Berel Povarsky, in his Bahd Kodesh, asks, so why put Miriam next to Parah Adumah, whose aspect of forgiveness is obscure, when the message of Kapparah would be so much more clear if it were placed next to regular Korban Chattas? If Rabbeinu Chananel has to address the problem that there really is no apparent kappara in Parah Adumah, why make the smichus to Parah Adumah and have to go hunting for din kappara?
He answers that Parah Adumah was outside the Mishkan, but it was done “nochach pnei Ohel Mo’eid,” on Har Hazeisim, far from the Beis Hamikdash- it was vital that the sacrificial service of the Para Aduma be done facing the entrance of the Ohel Moed. The work of nashim tzidkanios is not in the Beis Medrash, it is in the home and in the street, but it is nochach pnei Ohel Mo’eid, it is done for the purpose of chizuk hatorah ve’hayir’ah.
He makes an excellent tzushtell: Horios 13a– “Yekarah hee mi’pninim (Mishlei 3::15)”, "it" is more precious than the avodah of the Kohen Gadol who goes into the pnim, the kodesh kadashim, the sanctum sanctorum. Now, the "it" in that Gemara refers to limud hatorah, but he makes a tzushtell to all avodos that are done outside the kodesh but whose purpose is to lay the groundwork and create the environment for kedushah. These preparatory and supportive and foundational works are more precious than the actual service that is done in Pnim, in the Beis Hamikdash.
We can say that הִיא means the avodah that is associated with women. יְקָרָה הִיא מִפְּנִינִים The Avodah of women, albeit outside the Beis Hamikdash, albeit quiet and without ceremony and publicity, that avodah is more precious than the cynosure of Avodah, the avoda of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.
20:1-2. Vatamas sham Miriam...velo hayah mayim la’eidah. Miriam died....the populace had no water. Rashi (from Taanis 9a)– the well that had previously supplied their needs, the be’er, was in the merit of Miriam.
Kli Yakar here: the be’er disappeared because they didn't eulogize her properly: when Moshe and Aharon died, (Bamidbar 20:29, Devarim 34:8) it says “vayivku...” but not when Miriam died.
Reb Berel Povarsky asks: if the be’er was in the zechus of Miriam, how can the Kli Yakar say that it disappeared because they weren’t maspid properly? It disappeared because she died! It was only there because of her, and with her death, the zechus that brought this miraculous well was no longer there!
He answers that the idea of a proper hesped is that by deep consideration of the life of a Tzadik, one gains an understanding and appreciation of what the Tzadik was, and is motivated to emulate them as well as possible, and thereby brings forward in this world their life and influence. It ties the life of the tzadik to the life of the living world. If they had been maspid Miriam properly, her zechusim would have continued to benefit the generation. Unfortunately, they just wiped away a tear, and said goodbye, and left her in her grave. She was no longer tied to this world, and her zechusim no longer were able to benefit them.
A comment was sent in, and I like it so much that I'm putting it into the post. Yasher Koach!
I appreciated this insight into the Gemura in Moed Kuton, and I thought that the homiletic reading of to the Gemura in Horios was also a nice touch. Thanks for sharing this.
I tucked it away in the back of my head for a year, and then I was asked to speak to a group of camp counselors last week, Parshas Chukas. (In my small town, we have a day camp, and every year we bring girls in from "the city" to help out.)
Anyway, I mentioned this insight, and I amplified it by describing the intricate arrangement that was needed to make the pura adima possible (See the Mishna in Pura about the cave in NE Yirushaloyim where women went to give birth and raise their childern in a state of taharah until they were big enough to ride on top of the doors strapped onto the backs of oxen ...).
I said "Who were these women? These children?" We don't know. Their names aren't recorded. But every avodah in the Beis HaMikdash was made possible by their mesiras nefesh outside.
I also pointed out that while the kohen gudol was sequestered for seven days prior to Yom Kippur, and sprinkled on the first and seventh day, the person who burned the pura adima was sprinkled each of the seven days. I said that the avoda outside the BH"M, which is the preparatory work without which the avoda inside the BH"M would not be possible, is more precious and more sensitive to taharah. The mishna says that even those who carried the clay jugs to the cave for the children to carry became tamei after handing them over. Our dealings with gashmius, when dedicated to making possible dealings with kedisha, are the arena of tuma and tahara in our lives.