In this Parsha, we read of the death of Miriam who was Moshe’s sister, but, even more, his confidante. She provided the ear that he needed to be able to manage the challenges of leadership. I think that Miriam told him the truth. She was even willing to suffer God’s wrath when it came to speaking her mind. Soon after her death, Moshe committed the sole sin of his life-striking the rock in order to obtain water from it.
We all need a confidante. For some of us, it’s a spouse. But sometimes that’s a problem. Why? Well. Because there may be times when we might want to speak about our spouse. So, a friend, someone we can be honest with, who can tell us when we’re not being true to ourselves, that kind of friend is so precious.
I had a friend like that, a friend whom I told virtually everything to. I trusted him, and he never judged me, no matter how off the wall I might have been at the time. Jason passed away, and now, looking back, I think that, like Moshe and Miriam, I did not have the time to mourn him appropriately. It was Pesach, and I had sermons to write and services to lead. I was moving my residence. I was overwhelmed with grief, and like many men, I didn’t know how to express that grief. So, I exploded during a family Seder, damaging relationships within the mishpacha for years. I can’t help but connect that event with Moshe and Miriam.
We need to give ourselves time to grieve. We need to recognize the vacuum that the loss of a beloved friend leaves in our lives. We need to be patient with ourselves when we experience feelings of loss and disorientation and grief.
Of course, for those whose faith is strong, God can be a confidante. Praying to, speaking to God in times of difficulty can give us great comfort. But I suspect that there are times when we really need someone who talks back to us, someone who can nudge us back to where we want to be and where we should be. This is not an either/or—we can fill our lives with God AND with the friends so dear to us. Friends are mortal and we have to recognize that they will not be with us forever. But the story in our Parsha makes clear-as crazy as it may seem-that sometimes God is not enough-we need a friend.