Miriam’s Death

All through their years of wandering in the desert, a well coming out of a rock had provided the children of Israel with water. This well accompanied them wherever they went. It was a miracle with which G‑d favored the children of Israel because of the merits of Miriam, Moses' sister. On the tenth day of Nissan, in the fortieth year of their journey (2487), the children of Israel reached Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin. It was there that Miriam died to the great sorrow of the Jewish people. Not only had they lost their great prophetess, but with her death, the well ceased to give them water.

The People Grumble Again

Stricken with thirst, the children of Israel again began to quarrel and murmur against Moses, saying that they would rather have died a sudden death by plague, like their brothers, than perish by thirst with their herds.

The Sin of Moses and Aaron

G‑d told Moses to take his staff and, together with Aaron, to assemble the entire people. Then, before the eyes of all, he was to order the rock to bring forth water. Moses and Aaron assembled the entire community before the rock and said to them impatiently: "Hear now, ye rebels; are we to bring you forth water out of this rock?" And Moses raised his rod and hit the rock with his staff twice. Immediately water flowed from the rock in great abundance, enough for the men and animals.

But Moses and Aaron had disobeyed G‑d! Instead of talking to the stone, as they had been ordered to do, they had hit it with the staff. Thus, they had spoiled the opportunity to show the people that even a rock would obey G‑d's command and give forth water, at the mere word of G‑d. For Moses and Aaron, even this seemingly slight deviation from G‑d's word was a grave and unpardonable sin. Their punishment was very grave, for G‑d told them (Numbers 20:12): "Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them."

Thereafter, the place where this had happened was called "May Meribah," the Waters of Strife, because there the children of Israel had quarreled with G‑d for lack of water.

Aaron’s Death

From Kadesh, the camp of the Jews travel led to Mount Hor. There G‑d told Moses that Aaron was to die now. Moses took Aaron and his son Elazar, and together they ascended the mountain before the eyes of all Israel. In a cave near the peak of the mountain, Moses took the priestly robes off Aaron and put them on Elazar. Then Aaron lay down, and G‑d took his holy soul back to heaven. Aaron was 123 years old when he died (on the first day of the month of Av, 2487). The death of Aaron was deeply mourned by all Israel.

The Brazen Serpent

After the children of Israel left Mount Hor, they had to journey all around the Land of Edom. Tired of traveling and marching, they again murmured bitterly against G‑d and Moses. As a punishment G‑d sent fiery serpents from whose sting many of the people died. Then they repented, and implored Moses to entreat G‑d for pardon; he interceded, and his prayers were accepted by G‑d. G‑d commanded him to make a serpent of brass, and to place it upon a pole; and any man bitten by the fiery serpents who would look up to the brazen figure, as a symbol of his reliance on the Divine power and assistance, would be healed.