The Wisdom of Miriam

By: Sondra Oster Baras
January 1, 2016

The first portion of the Book of Exodus is one of transformation – the children of Israel, the family of Jacob, become the “Hebrews” and the Children of Israel, with a national focus. The family of Amram and Yocheved become the first family of Israel, as Moses is transformed from infant to impulsive young man to leader and prophet. The process of transformation in each case is both moving and beautiful.

Moses Laid Amid the Flags, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, at the Jewish Museum, New York [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
Moses Laid Amid the Flags, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, at the Jewish Museum, New York [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

I would like to focus my thoughts on Miriam, Moses’s sister who watches carefully as the Daughter of Pharaoh reaches out to draw Moses from the water. She is a young girl but she has great concern for the fate of her baby brother. As Pharaoh’s daughter takes pity on the child and decides to care for him, Miriam is there, on the spot, to suggest her own mother as a wet-nurse for the new baby:  “So the girl went and called the child’s mother” (Exodus 2:8).

Later on in the Bible, we learn more about Miriam. We learn that she is a leader and initiator, as she leads the women in song and dance after the parting of the Red Sea. She is punished by God with leprosy when she gossips about her brother’s wife. And when she dies, she is mourned by the entire nation.

The Midrash tells a fascinating story about Miriam that adds an additional dimension to her character, but is quite consistent with the qualities we already see in the Biblical story. After Pharaoh decrees the death of all Jewish babies, insisting that they be thrown mercilessly into the Nile, the Midrash tells us that many men separated from their wives, so as not to risk pregnancy and the birth of a baby that would then be slaughtered by Pharaoh. Amram and Yocheved separated as well. However, Miriam with a wisdom and poignancy far exceeding her years, scolds her father and insists that her parents come back together. She tells them: isn’t it enough that Pharaoh has decreed death to the sons of Israel – by separating, you are decreeing death on both the sons and daughters of Israel! Moved by their daughter’s anguish, Amram and Yocheved reunite, and the result is the birth of Moses.

The message of this tale is indeed powerful, and it is this message that has resonated to Jewish students for centuries. Amram and Yocheved tried to avoid what they perceived as certain tragedy, by ensuring that no future children would be born in their family. But they did not take into account God’s role in the situation. Miriam essentially told her parents that if God wanted their child to survive, the child would be a girl. What Miriam and her parents could not envision is that the son that would be born from their union would actually save the Jewish people and be God’s own messenger to them.

It was not for Amram and Yocheved to try and outsmart the decree, nor outsmart God. It was for them to continue doing what they knew was right, and to rely on God to bring salvation. As we continue to build homes and deepen our roots in Judea and Samaria, despite the various peace plans that are placed on and off the table, we follow this same message. It is not for us to stop building in order to avoid having our homes destroyed. We must continue doing what we can and trust God to save us. And if our houses are destroyed, we will have to accept it as God’s will.

Rabbi Tuly Weisz

Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the founder of Israel365 and the editor of “The Israel Bible,” the first Bible dedicated to highlighting the relationship between the Land and the People of Israel. Rabbi Tuly is a columnist for Israel365news, the Jerusalem Post, Fox News and Newsmax who writes passionately about Israel, the Bible and Jewish-Christian relations. In addition to his writings, Rabbi Tuly has appeared alongside Alan Dershowitz on ILTV, on CBN’s “700 Club”, Daystar, Israel National News, TBN and numerous other television appearances. Rabbi Weisz attended Yeshiva University (BA), Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (Rabbinic Ordination) and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law (JD) and served as the Rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Columbus, Ohio before making Aliyah to Israel. Rabbi Tuly lives with his wife and is blessed with 6 children and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

Sondra Oster Baras

Sondra Oster Baras was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio in an Orthodox Jewish home. Upon completing her B.A. from Barnard, she obtained her J.D. at Columbia University’s School of Law. A longtime resident of Samaria, in 1998 she opened the Israel office of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.

Originally posted on Shabbat Shalom by Sondra Oster Baras.


Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email

Recent Posts
Balak – Tents of Jacob, Tabernacles of Israel
Balak: Declaring from the Mountaintops and the Knesset Podium
Seeing God More Clearly in Troubled Times

Related Articles

By: The Israel Bible Team


Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email