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Miriam's Courage

Miriam's Courage


At the conclusion of the parshah of Behaalotecha we read how when Miriam had to live outside of Israel's desert encampment for seven days, "...the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again" (Numbers 12:15).

Two million people, with all their leaders, their prophets, judges, elders and sages delayed their scheduled journeying to wait for one individual! For they remembered; they remembered how she had waited at the banks of the Nile to guard her baby brother Moses floating in the reed box in the river; they remembered how Miriam, a little girl, had molded Israel's destiny and changed the course of history...

Amram, father of Aaron and Miriam, was the leader of the generation prior to the exodus from Egypt. When Pharaoh decreed "Every son that is born you shall throw into the river" (Exodus 1:22) Amram declared that it was useless to continue bearing children, and he divorced his wife Jochebed. All the Jews followed his example and divorced their wives. Then Miriam spoke up. Only six years old at the time, and well aware that her father was righteous and the leader of the nation, she courageously voiced her conviction: "Your decree is worse than Pharaoh's! For Pharaoh only decreed against the boys; but you decree against boys and girls. Pharaoh is an evil man, and his decree may or may not be effective; but you are a righteous person and your decree will be effective."1

Miriam declared that one must follow G‑d's commands, including the precept to " fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 9:1) without regard to "logic" or "rationale" and without regard to the consequences. Amram recognized the truth and sincerity of his little daughter's words. He immediately remarried Jochebed, and all Israel, inspired by his example, followed suit.

What was the result of Miriam's actions? Moses was born; and as soon as his mother placed him in the river, Pharaoh's astrologers declared, "Their deliverer has already been thrown into the water" and the decree (to drown all male children) was revoked.2

The undaunted courage of a six-year-old girl, to "tell it like it is" even to the leader of the generation, effected the annulment of the evil decree while still in the exile of Egypt, and eventually brought deliverance, through Moses, not only for herself, for her parents and for her family, but for all Israel.3

Midrash Rabbah, Shemot 1:17.
Ibid., 1:29.
Based on a talk given by the Rebbe in 1976 (Shabbat Mevorchim lyar 5736).
Rabbi Yitschak Meir Kagan was associate director of the Lubavitch Foundation in Michigan. An innovative educator and author, he compiled A Thought for the Week adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Kagan taught chassidic philosophy at various universities in Michigan, untill his tragic passing in a car accident in 2001.
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