Hopefully, most of us don't spend our lives constantly thinking about our ultimate end. Rather, Rosenzweig believed that the ultimate goal is to live a life dedicated to the love of God. This goal is achieved, in good part, by loving our fellow human beings. In loving, we are able to find goodness and hope.
I agree with Rosenzweig in the power of love to create meaning in our lives in spite of the knowledge that we will die. However, it is also true that we all eventually begin to face our own mortality as we age. In part, this process begins as we start facing the death of those whom we love. For if we love, we shall indeed be destined to mourn and grieve the loss of our loved ones. And this reminds us our our own eventual demise.
In many ways, I see this as being at the heart of this week's parashah, Hukkat (Bemidbar/Numbers 19:122:1). The parashah begins with the description of the ritual slaughter of the red heifer by Eleazar the priest. The ashes of the heifer are then to be mixed together with water, hyssop, crimson thread and other ingredients in order to make a solution that will be used to purify those who have become tamei/ritually impure (for lack of a better translation) through contact with a corpse. And so, our ancestors were prepared for the process of purification that would take place after literally handling death in the community and in their families.
Immediately following this we read of the death of Miriam the prophet, sister of Moses and Aaron. After her death the people cry out to Moses that they have no water to drink. This passage may well be one of the origins of the ancient rabbinic legend of Miriam’s Well. This was a well of fresh water which would spring up by Miriam's tent wherever the people camped. It was water from this well, a reward for Miriam's role in the redemption from Egypt, which sustained the people through their years in the desert. However, it would seem, that the water ceased to flow following Miriam’s death.
It is true that he has a wife and two sons, but the two people who were by his side during the journey, even when they may have disagreed, were now gone. Beyond this, the people continue to complain, and do not allow him time to grieve.
In the poetic commentary below, I imagine how Moses might have felt at the moment when he was finally left alone by his complaining people and allowed to face his loss and his grief. I have published this poem twice before on this blog. Yet, each time it is a little different, just as our own mourning over loss changes over time and even from moment to moment.
The poem may have changed slightly from it's earlier postings, but it's essence remains the same.
not leader teacher emissary prophet
but nothing in life is ever simple
to forgive each other