(Last Days of Pesach 5775) Miriam!

(Last Days of Pesach 5775) Miriam!
The Hallel prayer of thanks and praise to the Almighty is recited on
practically all holidays and semi-holidays. The blessings and chapters
of the Hallel, taken from King David’s Psalms, capture a unique
expression of a Jews’ thankfulness to the Almighty.

In the second chapter of Hallel, we mention our exodus from Egypt, the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, and the miracle of the Jordan River whose waters halted as the Jews entered the Land of Israel. The chapter also mentions the miraculous rock that gave forth water for forty years while the Jew sojourned through the desert.

Commentators wonder why the miracle of Moshe producing water from the rock is included in this passage which primarily speaks of miracles concerning water ceasing to flow. Abarbenel explains that this miracle brings our appreciation of G-d’s miracle full circle: When the need arose, G-d transformed liquid into a solid and when the opposite was required, G-d changed solid into a liquid. The implied message is that G-d exercises total control over nature, doing with it as He sees fit.

Looking a bit deeper we find some interesting parallels with these three miracles mentioned in the Psalm. Three miracles accompanied the Jews while they were traveling through the desert. The Manna provided them with food, the water coming from the rock provided them with hydration and there were special spiritual clouds that provided them with protection. Each one of these miracles came in the merit of a great person. The clouds came because of Aaron, the Manna because of Moshe, and the water came because of Miriam.

That the miracles came about in the merit of these three great people is apparent because when each one of these three people died, that particular miracle stopped.

Let’s take a look at some dates: The Splitting of the Red Sea occurred on the 21st day of Nissan. This is commemorated with our observance of the last days of Pesach. The Jordan split on the 10th day of Nissan. Miriam passed away on the 10th day of Nissan.

Says the Chasam Sofer: During the seven day Shiva period after Miriam’s passing, the rock still gave off water. Then it stopped. After three days of not producing water, the Jews began to complain to Moshe. On the 21st day of Nissan Moshe (mistakenly) hit the rock and the waters began to flow! This is the same day as the splitting of the Red Sea!

Both events happened on the same calendar date to show G-d’s total Mastery and control over nature, He performed these two opposite types of miracles, splitting the sea and producing water from a solid – on the same exact date!

The water was produced for the Jewish people in Miriam’s merit because some 80 years earlier she devotedly stood by with a watchful eye over her infant brother Moshe whom she hid in a basket in the waters of the Nile River. In addition, when the Jews miraculously crossed the split Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptians died, Moshe led them in the prophetic song of Az Yashir.

The Torah relates that Miriam led the women in song and points out that Miriam took and played – the drums. What is the significance of taking the drum to play? Commentaries point out that upon leaving Egypt, Miriam was convinced that they would have an opportunity to sing praise to the Almighty for their salvation, so she took her drums along with her specifically for this purpose.

The drum that Miriam used had additional significance. When Pharoh decreed that all the Jewish males born be cast into the Nile, Amram, the leader of the Jewish people, separated from his wife rationalizing that if additional children would be born they would be killed. The Jewish people followed suit and also separated from their wives. Miriam, who was about five years old at the time, reasoned with her parents Amram and Yocheved telling them that their action was in a way worse than Pharoh’s, because Pharoh only decreed on the males and their separation caused that girls would also not be born. At that time Miriam also prophesied that they would have a child – Moshe – who would be the savior of the Jewish people. The Medrash relates that Amram and Yocheved listened to their daughter Miriam and remarried publically in order to publicize to all Jewish couples that they should also reunite.

The Medrash relates that Miriam and her brother Aaron danced at their parent’s wedding while she played the drums. Over eighty years later, when the Jews were finally freed from the Egyptian rule and servitude, Miriam took the same instrument, the drums, and expressed her appreciation to the Almighty for His awesome Salvation!

Wishing you a most uplifting and enjoyable Pesach!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family