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Miriam

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

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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

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