Dedicated to one of the sermons of Rabbi J. K. Perlman
1 The children of Israel, the entire community, arrived at Zin desert in the first month, the people stayed at Kadesh, there Miriam died and there she was buried.Numbers 20
28 Moses removed Aaron’s garments and dressed Eliezer his son in them; Aaron died there on the top of the mountain; Moses and Eliezer descended from the mountain.Numbers 20
Miriam and Aaron are dead, leaving Moshe alone. It is as if his right and left hands have been taken from him. Many others surround him, but no siblings, no familial face to support or even chide him. They had lived with the danger of his discovery from his birth. After he was returned home from his voyage in the basket on the Nile River, they must have held him and played with him. Maybe they even taught him to walk, but they would not walk with him on the remainder of his long journey.
25 A fear I have feared—and it’s come about; Just what I dreaded befell me.Job 3  translation from Greenstein, Edward L.. Job (p. 48). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
The entire people mourned for Miriam and then for Aaron; Moshe was alone in his grief. It is not even mentioned when each one died if he simply buried them. Were there eulogies or long laments? It might have been too private a period in his life to record, because his tears weren’t described. It is as if his mourning was too private, not relevant to the responsibilities he bore alone.
But sometime later, someone else would write these words:
6 Why should I fear terrible things in my day, when transgression followed and surrounded me; 7 those who trusted in their strength and reveled in their wealth? 8 Ah no one cannot redeem that person nor pay ransom to God; 9 For the price of live is enormous–no one can live forever.Psalm 49
The team has lost 2 magnificent players. The star player is fading and has lost his backups, the ones he knew would watch out for him when the opposition got tough. How they used to shine on that playing field together! Not always harmonious, but united enough to triumph so many times. Those glory days are over – rookies would fill their places, even wear their uniforms. The star player will go on for a while without them, but it will never feel the same.
Could he recall the first time Aaron spoke to Pharaoh on behalf of the Israelite slaves? Did he remember the sounds of Miriam’s voice as she sang after crossing the Red Sea? Moshe may have sat silently and thought: “Where are you now when we need you?”
A song of comfort is needed to help ease his pain and renew his ability to carry on.
1 Song of Ascent: I raise my eyes to the hills, where will my help come from? 2 My help will come from YHWH, the creator of the skies and the earth, 3 who will not let you stumble; your protector will not slumber. 4 See, the protector of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. 5 YHWH is your protector—YHWH shields your right hand. 6 Neither will the sun strike you by day nor the moon by night. 7 YHWH will protect you from all evil—will protect your life. 8 YHWH will protect you when you go out and as you return, from now and forever.Psalm 121
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021
Shir Hamaalot – Song of Ascent