R. Judah discoursed here on the verse: “And the Canaanite the king of Arad heard” (Num. XXI, 1). ‘We have learnt’, [Tr. note: v. T.B. Taanith, 9a.] he said, ‘that three notable gifts were conferred upon Israel through the three brethren, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. The manna was given to them for the merit of Moses, the clouds of glory for the merit of Aaron, and the well for the merit of Miriam.


[Note: The first 6 lines of the Hebrew text are not found in our translation]

When Miriam died the well was taken from them, as it is written, “And Miriam died, and there was no water for the congregation” (Num. xx, 1, 2). Another well which was with Israel also desired to depart, but when it saw six clouds that hovered over them it remained attached to them. When Aaron died the clouds departed and the cloud of the well with them, until Moses came and brought them back.’ R. Isaac said: ‘Why was this honour conferred upon Aaron? Because he was linked with clouds and he linked them all together, so that they were all blessed through him. For in addition to all the lovingkindness that God did with Israel, He linked with them seven precious clouds which He also linked with the Community of Israel, whose cloud was linked with seven others, and Israel traversed the wilderness protected by all of them. They all form a bond of faith, and therefore Israel were bidden to dwell in booths seven days, so that the Israelite may show that he is dwelling in the shadow of faith. As long as Aaron was alive, Israel were in the shadow of faith under those clouds. When Aaron died, a cloud on the right departed and the rest departed with it, and the weakness of Israel was exposed, and straightway the king of Arad heard that the clouds had departed[Tr. note: Cf. T.B. Taanith, ibid.] and the great explorer to whom they were all linked was dead.’ R. Isaac observed that the King of Arad dwelt in the south, and the spies also brought back word that Amalek dwelt in the south (Num. XIII, 20), to awe the people, because Amalek had struck the first blow at them. R. Abba said: Why is the Canaanite mentioned here? Because Canaan was a slave of slaves (Gen. IX, 25), and this shows that he who withdraws himself from the shadow of faith deserves to be a slave to the slave of slaves. Hence “all that are homeborn in Israel shall dwell in booths”; everyone who is of the holy root and stock of Israel shall dwell in a booth under the shadow of faith.

Shall he that is not of the holy stock withdraw himself from the shadow of faith? We are told that Eleazar the servant of Abraham was a Canaanite, but because he served Abraham, who sat under the shadow of faith, he was delivered from the curse of Canaan and was even called “blessed”, as it is written, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord” (Gen. XXIV, 31). Thus whoever abides under the shadow of faith acquires freedom for himself and his descendants in perpetuity, and is blessed with a noble blessing, but he who withdraws from the shadow of faith brings captivity upon himself and for his children, as it is written, “And he took some of them captive”.