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by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales


Library » History » Egypt | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Miriam, the daughter of Amram and Yocheved, and older sister of her two famous brothers, Aaron and Mosheh, was born in Egypt just when the Jewish people were reduced to slavery, oppression and hard labor. This was in the year 2342 (after Creation), eighty six years before the Liberation. She was born four years before Aaron and seven years before Mosheh. Having been born at the time when the bitter enslavement began, her parents named her "Miriam" (from the Hebrew word meaning "bitterness").

Her father Amram was the grandson of Levi, the son of our Patriarch Yaakov. He was the leader and head of the Jewish people.

Miriam was a prophetess, as the Torah states clearly (Exod. 15:20). Our Sages tell us that the spirit of prophecy came to her when she was still a child. Her earliest prophecy was that her mother was going to give birth to a son who would free the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. This is one of the reasons why she was also called Puah, meaning "Whisperer," for she was whispering words of prophecy (Sotah 11b, 12b). At that time, her mother and she were the chief Hebrew midwives, who went by the names of Shiphrah and Puah. King Pharaoh instructed them to kill, at birth, any baby boy born to a Jewish mother. But they did not carry out the king's cruel order; on the contrary, they helped save them (Exod. 1:15-20). Needless to say, the G-d fearing mother and daughter risked their lives in doing what they did, and they were to be rewarded with the two most distinguished "houses" (dynasties) of the Jewish people: that of Kehunah (Priesthood) --bestowed upon Yocheved's son Aaron, and that of Royalty, bestowed upon David, who was a descendant of Miriam. Miriam was only five years old when she became her mother's helper in delivering Jewish babies, but she was already quite competent(Exod. R. 1:17).

Miriam was certain that her little brother would be saved somehow
When the cruel Pharaoh gave the order that all Jewish baby boys should be thrown into the river, her parents decided to separate and have no more children, for they already had a daughter and son. Then the six-year old Miriam said to her father, "Your decree is worse than Pharaoh's; for Pharaoh aimed at boys only, while you would prevent both boys and girls from being born." Being the leader of the Jewish people, Amram had set an example which other Jews were quick to follow, and they, too, divorced their wives. Amram saw the wisdom of his young daughter, and he remarried his wife, whereupon all others also remarried their wives. The following year Mosheh was born.

To escape the king's officers, who went around searching for Jewish baby boys to snatch them away and throw them into the Nile, Yocheved hid little Mosheh for three months, but then could not hide him any longer. She placed her wonderful little boy in a basket, which she placed among the reeds at the river's bank. Miriam was certain that her little brother would be saved somehow, and she placed herself at some distance to see what would become of her prophecy. Then something extraordinary happened. Pharaoh's daughter, stricken with a rash (a kind of leprosy) that day, went to bathe in the river, hoping the water would clear her leprosy. She saw the basket among the reeds, took it, and opened it. She realized that it must be a Jewish boy, and she was overjoyed when she discovered that her leprosy disappeared the moment she touched the basket. Disregarding her father's order, she decided to save the baby and adopt him as her own. At that moment Miriam approached the princess and boldly offered to bring a Jewish nursing mother to nurse the baby. The princess readily agreed, and Miriam went and called her mother. The princess left the baby in her care, but ordered her to return him when he was weaned. Thus, Mosheh was saved, and in due course-eighty years later-he led the Jewish people to freedom, just as Miriam had prophesied. Miriam not only lived to see her prophecy fulfilled, but, together with her two brothers, she was one of the three devoted shepherds of the people throughout their forty years' wandering in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.


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History » Desert Sojourn

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
Older sister of Moses and Aaron, and a prophetess in her own right.
King of Moab when the Israelites were heading towards Canaan. He employed Balaam, an immoral prophet and sorcerer, to curse the Israelites so they could be destroyed.
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
A woman suspected of adultery, with probable cause. She is taken to the Holy Temple and given a potion which causes her death if she is guilty of the sin.
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.