Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Miriam is first referred to as the “achot” – the paradigmatic sister caring for her baby brother, and in today’s vernacular, the “nurse,” whose personality is preserved in the Midrash as “Puah,” one who resuscitated and infused infants with vitality. Miriam, whose name literally means “waters of bitterness,” stood by the deathly waters of the Nile and Sea of Reeds, and transformed the threats of annihilation into survival, salvation and song. With her tambourine of hope in hand, she led her peers toward redemption, encouraging them to stand and see “from afar” – anticipating a blessed future of families and armies.

Miriam – a woman of water and wellness, in whose merit a miraculous well provided Bnei Yisrael with water in the wilderness for forty years, sustained the fledgling nation physically and spiritually. Chazal explain Miriam’s waters of the well as representing the words of encouragement and Torah guidance which emanate from below and rise heavenward. Also named “Efrat” (i.e. refuah – healing), Miriam’s tzara’at was healed through prayer and her son Chur held up the faithful hands of Moshe as we triumphed against Amalek. The leadership of Miriam is preserved each time we read three pesukim from the Torah – representing the everlasting guidance of the sibling triumvirate – Moshe, Aharon and Miriam through whom the teachings of Torah and promise of victory and redemption are eternally perpetuated.

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Rabbanit Shani Taragin is educational director of Matan-Bellows Eshkolot Tanakh teachers’ programs and Mizrachi Olami Lapidot. Shani directs, leads tours, coordinates, and teaches Tanach, Talmud, Halacha and women’s health in numerous seminaries and adult education programs in Israel and worldwide. Shani lives with her family in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion-Israel.