Our Sages tell us that Galus Mitzrayim is a prototype and the root of all future exiles (B’reishis Rabbah 16:4). There are many lessons that we can learn from Miriam and her “students” that are both relevant and relatable to the challenges we, as Jewish women, are facing today.
Here are three important ones:
1 Don’t compromise on the things you know to be true. Though Miriam received d’var Hashem that the redemption was at hand, the reality is that all of the Jews at that time knew that there would be both a human redeemer and a redemption from Egypt (See Rashi to Sh’mos 3:18). The difference is that Miriam and eventually the Jewish women lived their lives in accordance with this truth.
There are many truths today that should be guiding our lives – whether it is promises of redemption, assistance, or on the other hand, distance and suffering – that Hashem has explicitly made or statements that our Sages have said. The challenge is living our lives in accordance with them.
2 Wait for Hashem’s y’shuah. In life there will be ups and downs – revelations and concealment. During the times of concealment, our job is to let Hashem do His job.
As it says in Eichah, “Sit alone and be still because it hangs on Him (Hashem).” Miriam could have despaired at the decree, at her parents’ separation, again when Moshe was put into the river, or during the 80 years till the time for redemption had come. Yet, her emunah was unwavering. She didn’t budge, because she knew that the y’shuah would come in its time and that the “right time” was perfectly calibrated.
3 There is no room for despair. It could be said that bitterness was a part of Miriam’s essence – after all, the word mar (bitter) is a central part of her. The bitter events of the Egyptian exile also surrounded her and the other women every single day. Miriam could have easily let herself be engulfed in suffering and misery; she could have claimed that she was a victim of circumstances. Why not? Even her righteous parents had been affected.
But, instead of plummeting into the depths of despair, she chose to stand up, to fight to be connected to Hashem, to be the voice of truth and hope for the whole generation.
Chazal tell us that the Jews received the well that miraculously followed them throughout their years in the desert in the merit of Miriam. According to the Maharal (Netzach Yisrael 54), a well symbolizes a Jew’s innate yearning and longing to be connected to Hashem, since its water flows upward from the ground. Not only did Miriam personify this quality, but she actively sought to bring it out in those around her.
Ultimately, it was in the merit of this yearning to come close to Hashem, even in the midst of suffering and concealment, that the Jewish people were redeemed, and in this very same merit will we be redeemed again. May it happen speedily in our days.
(Material was previously published on www.ShiratMiriam.com.)