Parshat Chukat: "What I Possess Forever"


Everything will remember that I was here.
The ships will be the color of my clothing.
The birds will use my voice for singing.
The fisherman on the rock will ponder my poem.
The river will follow my footprints.
-Rajzel Zychlinsky

Here. A place where anything can happen. Here. A place where we love and are loved. Here. A place for new beginnings, growth, and exploration. Here. A place where we are fashioned, shaped and formed not only in the image of God - but also in the image of our friends, family, and community. Here - in this world - we tread atop footsteps of embedded memories of loved ones no longer here. Like a door that never fully closes, swollen by the heat of summer, the tender winds of their voice and laughs shared sweep through us like a cooling breeze. As hard as we push, the door remains open - letting in what we can never shut out. 

This week, in parshat Chukat, we are told of the death of Miriam:

“The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.” [1] 

Concerning this verse, one commentator asks, “Why did the Torah have to write the word ‘there?’Our sages...say that the people buried Miriam near the place where she died. [Our sages also explain] that the righteous are called "alive" even after they have died a physical death (Berachot 18a). When the Torah said ‘there,’ it wanted to remind us that Miriam was ‘dead’ only ‘there,’ [in other words] on earth. Whereas she lived on in another region, the region reserved for the souls of the righteous.”

When God said Let Us make Mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, we, in fact, were formed from two words: The world of water and stone and the world of the everlasting.  On this Shabbat, I am reminded of those righteous souls that continue to dwell among us. Our community embraces their love and honors their memory by striving to be the individuals they imagined we could become. Let us demonstrate to the world that their love left an indelible impression on our character like a footprint left on the moon itself - free from elements that wash away or erode. As such, may their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life. May our grief be transformed into tenderness toward those who are still with us.

...At the bend of the road, at the close of day,
They gather around me silently, and walk by my side.
This is a bond nothing can ever loosen
What I have lost: what I possess forever.
— Rachel

[1] Numbers 20:1 
[2] Or HaChaim on Numbers 20:1:4

Aaron Sataloff