Miriam was stricken with leprosy after gossiping about her brother Moshe. She was banished from the camp until her leprosy healed. Out of respect for her, “the people didn’t move on until Miriam reentered – afterwards the people embarked…”. Rashi comments that Hashem bestowed this honor as a reward for her watching over infant Moshe when he was thrown into the Nile.
Journeys in the desert were initiated and terminated by the will of Hashem. This was communicated by means of the cloud which rested on the Mishkan. When the cloud rose up from the Mishkan shaped like a beam, they departed. When the cloud took on the shape of a canopy over the tribe of Yehuda, they set up camp. Now when Miriam was banished there are two possible scenarios: One, the cloud didn’t ascend. Two, it rose. Each of these possibilities present a problem. If the cloud didn’t ascend then they hadn’t completed their sojourn in that locale and there is no specific honor for Miriam. If it rose, under what pretense could they disobey?
Perhaps “the people didn’t move” is merely a statement of fact. They were withheld from traveling, not that it was their decision. This is borne out by Rashi’s statement; “Hashem granted this honor” despite the verse crediting the people, Rashi attributes the postponement to Hashem. It is possible the people were unaware of the delay, ascribing the passage of time to the fact the cloud had not arisen.
The cloud made an effort to rise and then stuttered to a stop, remaining in limbo. This indicated that it was really time to move on, but something was delaying the decampment. When Miriam returned to the camp and the cloud completed its departure, everyone knew that the delay was nothing other than waiting for the princess of the people – Miriam.
Next time you are kept waiting, try and reframe as an opportunity to honor that person.
Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz (1878 – 1953) is popularly known by the title of his magnum opus “Chazon Ish”. Although the Chazon Ish held no official post he was recognized worldwide as an authority on many matters relating to Jewish law and life. His home was a hub of activity with people searching for solutions to many varied problems. People came with global, personal and private issues requesting his guidance.
On one occasion, a person desperate to consult the Chazon Ish arrived at his home as he was about to go on walk. The person requested permission to accompany the Chazon Ish on his stroll.
As they were making their way at a steady pace, the Chazon Ish slowed down to almost a halt. This was strange; either continue walking, or stop and rest, why meander at such a slow pace?
The Chazon Ish explained his behavior, “Ahead of us is a man with a limp, this impedes his ability to walk properly, it wouldn’t be pleasant to remind of him of his disability”.
Thus the Chazon Ish waited in order to honor the limp.
For activities that are forbidden on Shabbos, one may not go and wait at the Techum border, in order to leave as soon as Shabbos is over (Shulchan Aruch 306:1).