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The Torah does not give details as to how the Bnai Yisrael got water in the desert. Given that there were 600,000 men between twenty and sixty (about 2 - 3 million people total) they could not have lined up at a single source to collect water. Hashem could have arranged for a rain storm every day to allow enough water for the people to collect (like the man) but did not. What did He do?

Note that when the people complained, he had Moshe and the elders go ahead in the journey to hit the rock. Some say the rock was at Har Sinai (about six weeks travel ahead). What exactly happened and how did it provide enough water for the entire people for the entire trip. Note that the people had to "wash their clothes" at Har Sinai, implying that there was no difficulty in everyone getting enough water for all their needs, It also implies that they did not have to ration water as they did the manna nor was its use restricted as to time.

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  • It is worth mentioning that the Torah did not notice that 600K people need enough water, albeit it does care about food.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 18 at 13:18
  • @AlBerko It is part of the miracle that there was no worry about water for the entire forty yars. As an example there was enough water to go to the mikvah the entire time. Jan 18 at 13:48
  • You don't know that, those are mere speculations, given that two million people can't survive without water, and no miracle is mentioned. That raises a question - why some miracles are mentioned in detail while some are not.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 18 at 14:11
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    @AlBerko We know there was enough water for the mikvaos for everyone since they were commanded to "wash their clothes" before the revelation of Sinai. Also the fact that there were no complaints until after Miriam died teaches that there was more than enough water for every use the entire forty years. Jan 18 at 18:48
  • If you believe in miracles, where do you draw the line between the miracle and nature - where does the miracle stop and nature begins? You believe there was a magic well, why do you think its waters needed to reach everyone in a natural way? Why don't you believe that the magic continued and it sprinkled water right into everyone's mouth?
    – Al Berko
    Jan 18 at 20:19

2 Answers 2

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Rashi Bamidbar 21:20

דָּ"אַ, כָּרוּהָ נְדִיבֵי הָעָם — כָּל נָשִׂיא וְנָשִׂיא כְּשֶׁהָיוּ חוֹנִים נוֹטֵל מַקְלוֹ וּמוֹשֵׁךְ אֵצֶל דִּגְלוֹ וּמַחֲנֵהוּ, וּמֵי הַבְּאֵר נִמְשָׁכִין דֶּרֶךְ אוֹתוֹ סִימָן וּבָאִין לִפְנֵי חֲנִיַּת כָּל שֵׁבֶט וָשֵׁבֶט (תנחומא):

Another explanation is: כרוה נדיבי עם THE NOBLES OF THE PEOPLE HOLLOWED IT — each prince of the tribes when they encamped took his staff and drew a line on the ground from the well to his banner and encampment, and the waters of the well ran by way of that mark and came before the camping place of each tribe (Midrash Tanchuma, Chukat 21).

So it seems that the well was stretched into streams or canals all around the camp

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  • Is it feasible in the desert? If you pour water, doesn't it get soaked into the sand?
    – Al Berko
    Jan 18 at 13:13
  • That is part of the miracle as well. @AlBerko Jan 18 at 13:46
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Due to Miriam’s merit, God provided the Israelites a well that would pop up when they camped. Some say the well was a rock. After she died it vanished, and Moses brough it forth again.

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3916196/jewish/Miriams-Well-Unravelling-the-Mystery.htm

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    Yes but the entire bnai yisrael could not congregate at the well to collect water. The lines would be too long. Jan 17 at 16:16

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