PARASHAT BESHALAH: Miriam, and the audacity of hope


ותקח מרים הנביאה את התוף בידה

Miriam, Moshe’s (Moses) sister, was probably the most optimistic person in the history of Am Israel. I believe that when our Sages say that the Jews were able to leave Egypt thanks to the merit of virtuous women, they were referring especially to Miriam.

Miriam’s career as a prophetess of optimism began at an early age: when she was a child. At that time his father Amram, who was a well-respected leader in the Jewish community, decided that after Pharaoh’s decree ordering the killing of all newly born Jewish boys, he would separate from his wife in order not to bring more children to the world. “Why having more children? To see them die? Amram reasoned”. All the Jewish husbands saw what Amram did and decided that they would also stop having children. But when everyone saw death, despair and pessimism, a woman, a little girl named Miriam, saw the same things from a different perspective. Miriam visualized the possibility of a better future. And she told her father: “Pharaoh condemned only the male children to die, but your acts and your example would also condemn the women of Israel to extinction.” Miriam’s words had a big impact on her father. Amram returned to his wife Yokhebed and thus Moshe was born. All Yehudim of Egypt followed Amram’s example.  And Israel was saved from this self-extinction thanks to the audacity of a little girl named Miriam.

When Moshe was born, and before the Egyptian officers took him from his mother’s arms, Yokhebed, his mother, took him to the Nile River. After placing the basket with his baby on the river Yokhebed disappeared, perhaps not to see her baby die …. But once again, when everyone saw the inevitable and tragic end of the baby, a young girl named Miriam had the audacity of hope. And guided by an unreasonable but prophetic optimism, she followed her brother’s basket and saw wit her eyes that her stubborn optimism crystallized. Moshe was rescued by the last person anyone had imagined: Batya, Pharaoh’s  daughter. Miriam was present at the scene and suggested to the adoptive mother that the baby be nursed by a Hebrew woman before being taken to the palace. What we sometimes do not realize is that it was thanks to the providential intervention of Miriam that Moshe was raised by his own mother and that this is how Moshe knew he was Jewish!.  And so it was that one day he decided to go out and help his brothers …. It was thanks to Miriam that Moshe was born, and it was thanks to Miriam and her optimism that Moshe became the leader of the Jewish people.

In this week’s Parasha we find another evidence of Miriam’s incredible optimistic spirit. The departure from Egypt was very quick. Almost surprising. “You have to leave NOW, in the middle of the night. And you will have to travel with whatever you are wearing, and leave everything else behind.”  Men mainly thought about carrying things of value …. and the ladies, I imagine, must have been thinking of bringing food for their families. As we all know, there was not even time to wait for the dough to rise. At that moment people thinks with fear about all the potential  dangers of venturing into the desert: Will we have food, water, shade? What about wild animals or snakes or scorpions? At the time of leaving Egypt everyone was thinking about the risks of the unknown journey and the dangers of the Divine adventure. With one exception: Miriam. When Miriam packaged her belongings, the first thing she prepared was the TUPIM (a kind of “tambourine”). But why brining musical instruments? Why carrying extra weight? Once again, when everyone saw dangers and difficulties, Miriam dared to think differently. Miriam took the tambourines because she thought of celebrating. It was not yet known that HaShem was going to open the sea and the people of Israel would cross into their freedom. But even though she was not sure what exactly would be celebrating, Miriam had the audacity to think about freedom, victory, and celebration! And she said to herself, “We must be prepared to sing to HaShem and thank Him for all He has done for us.” And so it was. When the people of Israel crossed the sea, Miriam went out with her TUPIM to celebrate freedom and invite everyone to sing in gratitude to HaShem.

As they left Egypt, when they all imagined the dangers of the journey, Miriam had the audacity of hope. Miriam visualized freedom, victory, celebration and gratitude to HaShem.