(Torah Portion Beshalach) Who Will Benefit!
Miriam, who was Aaron and Moshe’s older sister, was a remarkable person. She was a leader and one of the seven women prophetesses.
Miriam and her mother Yocheved were the Jewish midwives who blatantly ignored Pharoh’s decree to abort the Jewish baby boys.
Our Sages tell us that when Pharoh decreed that Jewish baby boys be thrown in the Nile, Amram and Yocheved the leaders of the Jewish people, separated from each other fearing that if a child was born from their union it would be disposed and killed. The rest of the Jews followed suit and separated from their wives. Miriam, their young five year old daughter reasoned with her parents telling them that their conduct is worse than Pharoh’s, “For Pharoh only decreed on the Jewish males; your separation is preventing baby girls from being born as well.” Furthermore, Miriam prophetically told her parents that they will merit giving birth to the savior of the Jewish people.
Amram and Yocheved reunited, (with the rest of the Jews following suit,) and Moshe was born. When Moshe was three months old he could no longer be hidden, and it seemed that he was going to be discovered and killed. Miriam took Moshe and placed him in a basket in the Nile. Amram took Miriam to task saying, “Now what’s going to be with your prophecy?”
The Torah tells us that Miriam stood by the river to see what was going to be with Moshe.
Rabbi Lazer Gordon o.b.m. asked, “Why did Miriam wait to see what would be with Moshe if she prophetically knew that he would definitely be saved?”
Reb Lazer explained that Miriam stood by the side of the river with a watchful eye because she yearned to see who would be the one who would have the merit to save Moshe.
Reb Lazer used this idea to encourage potential donors to the Telshe Yeshiva in pre war Europe, “Torah and its study without a doubt will certainly continue; that is prophesized in our Torah. I ask of you, ‘Take advantage of the opportunity to gain the merit of upholding Torah study through your support!”
This idea can also be a method to motivate and inspire us when Mitzvah and Jewish identity opportunities come our way. Consider saying, “Yes, we as a people are guaranteed that we will always exist through our loyalty to the Almighty. However, when we personally perform or connect with a Mitzvah, we gain the merit of achieving the Mitzvah and thus forging a relationship with the Almighty and merit becoming an integral part in the perpetuation of our nation.”
The Jews were miraculously saved when G-d split the Red Sea. Moshe then led the nation in a song called the Az Yashir. After the Eighteen verses of the song were completed, the Torah relates that Miriam the prophetess gathered the women and accompanied by musical instruments they sang a song of praise.
The question raised is why does the Torah refer to Miriam as a prophetess specifically at this point?
It alludes to a prophecy that Miriam shared with the women while they were about to leave Egypt. Miriam told the women, “G-d is going to do great miracles for us when we will be freed, so please pack up musical instruments so that they will accompany our singing of G-d’s praises when we are saved.”
Rabbi Shimon Schwab o.b.m. points out that the Torah separates Moshe’s song and Miriam’s song with the following verse, “When the horses and riders of Pharoh went into the sea, G-d returned the waters upon them.”
The Talmud tells us that it was in the merit of the righteous women that we were saved from Egypt. We actually see at the crossing of the Red Sea that the women were indeed on a higher spiritual level and had a deeper belief in G-d then the men. How?
The Torah relates that the men only sang G-d’s praises when “They saw the Egyptians dead on the shore.” The men were afraid that the Egyptian taskmasters would come out alive from a different side of the sea. G-d therefore commanded the angel of the sea to spit all the dead Egyptians upon the shore so the Jews should see that they were indeed dead. It was only then that they erupted in song.
The women on the other hand sang their song with Miriam before they saw the Egyptians dead on the shore, as the verse indicates, “Immediately, when the horses and riders entered in the sea and the waters came crashing upon them.” Miriam and the women were so confident at that moment that G-d would punish and finish off the Egyptians that they immediately erupted in song!
Our Sages tell us that the well in the rock that miraculously gave water to the nation during their travels in the desert was due to the merit of Miriam. This can be seen from the fact that right after Miriam passed away, (at the end of the 40 year journey), the nation complained about the lack of water, and it had to be restored through Moshe’s intervention.
The Torah is compared to fire in some instances and to water in others – one such inference is in this week’s portion.
Reb Tzodok Hakohain explains that fire and heat represents the desires of one’s heart. Torah is compared to fire when it is studied and observed with passion, energy, excitement and enthusiasm. It then has the power to counteract the internal fiery forces of our evil inclination that work to drive us away from spirituality.
Torah is compared to water when it represents the study and observance of Torah that acts as a restoration of one’s spirit when it reconnects one to the Source. This is accomplished when Torah is observed with heart, warmth, humility and compassion similar to that of calm and tranquil flowing waters.
The common trait that runs through Miriam’s energetic and fulfilling life is her warmth and caring towards others, and her complete devotion, love and confidence in the Almighty. These traits are those that are represented by the water of Torah. Accordingly and befittingly it was Miriam who was the source of merit behind the miraculous waters the Jewish nation received throughout their journey through the desert!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks