Parshat Chukat – June 22, 2018
There are treasures here buried deep under the earth that are waiting to be explored. They sometimes have been formed in primeval times as molten rock and mountains and valleys formed, and at times man- made but also very old, going deep into the ground. To walk a passage under the ground, chiseled into the granite and view the caverns, you ask yourself- with what boring machine did they use? To touch with your own hands and see with your own eyes what innovation really meant for the young new country of Israel thousands of years ago- you wonder at what effort it took to dig all of that. Canaan we know and other nations lived here. It was an old, old Land; the Torah teaches it was Garden of Eden and a river ran through it, the first place.
The Canaani, the Yevusi, the Chitti, the Girgashi, the Cheevee, the Pelishti -all of them lived on the streams and springs of the Land, preventing Israel from having drinking water. So, stones were cleared and the ground was raked, terraces formed along the sides of the mountains because every drop of precious rain counted. Water was crucial for the tribe of Efrayim who lived up on the high point of craggy rocky ground. And Efrayim dug wells and cisterns everywhere. One of the dominant features of the landscape here is hundreds upon hundreds of pits going deep into the black so dark you can’t see a thing. Some have been paved with staircases, probably used for mikvehs. Some have ropes which help us on our way down to explore. Some are covered with a metal grating preventing you from falling in as there is nothing more exciting than leaning down and looking down. Givot Olam Farm here has a perfectly preserved cistern equipped with electric lights nailed into the rocky walls that shine onto the wet green and brown stairs and dark shadows along stone shelves carved into the bedrock. Don’t get distracted by other enormous caverns that lead off from the tunnel; you will feel like you can keep walking and never come to the end. It feels cool in here in the hot summer, and warm and snug in the freezing blustery winter. It feels safe here.
What was it like to live here, to work here, to be thirsty here and to know Hashem’s promise, to follow Him through a Land unsown to the Land of Eden with rivers running through it but that you had to find another way to quench your thirst.
There are some things we just can’t understand and hitting the rock won’t help.
Avraham who was the first to believe walked through the fire in unconditional obedience and readiness to fulfill. He never asked to understand.
Sometimes things happen and Hashem wants you to suck up to it. Israel is a Land that tries you. It makes you thirsty. Maybe the highest level of achieving it is not seeing any sign at all but letting your thirstiness for Hashem over ride it all. Shabbat Shalom!