In this week’s Parsha, Chukat-Balak, we learn that shortly after the passing of Miriam, the preeminent Yiddishe mama (Jewish mother), the water that had flowed miraculously from a stone for 40 years, as our ancestor traveled through the desert, ceased its flow. The nation then realized that the water had been provided in the merit of Miriam, and although Moses and Aaron were able to restore the water, the water source would forever be known as the well of Miriam.
Everything in the biblical narrative, including its stories, is instructive. To reveal the lesson behind this particular story, one need only think about the symbolic role of water. The Talmud refers to Torah as food, because the Torah is ingested by the mind like food is ingested by the stomach. The role of water is to lubricate the body and to facilitate the distribution of the food’s nourishment throughout the body.
When viewed this way, the lesson of Miriam’s well is clear. The Yiddishe mama has a particular role to play in Jewish life. The Torah tells us that the obligation to teach Torah to the child falls primarily on the father. The father provides food for Torah thought directly to the child’s mind. The Yiddishe mama nurtures a home environment and a culture that extends the Torah to the child’s heart and facilitates the child’s ability to internalize it, allowing it to flow within the child like water. Thus, Miriam, the preeminent Yiddishe mama, provided the water.
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow