Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aharon and the daughter of Yocheved. Just as Moses and Aaron were the leaders of the Jewish men in Egypt, Miriam lead and guided the Jewish women.

Miriam’s name, from the Hebrew root mar, means “bitterness.”

Witnessing the murders and the torment around her, and personally exposed to the decrees of the wicked Pharaoh, Miriam palpably understood the bitterness of the exile.

She felt her people’s pain acutely, but she would not succumb to fear or despair. Though she was exposed to abject cruelty, she would not yield to moral corruption or apathy.

And it was this quality in Miriam, as the leader of the women, which empowered the righteous women to be the purveyors of the redemption.

After miraculously leaving Egypt, standing at the shores of the Red Sea witnessing the end of their tormentors, the Jewish people began to sing Shirat Hayam, a song expressing their ecstatic gratitude and thanksgiving to G‑d.

Moses and the men sang their song. And then Miriam and the women rose to sing their song.

“The righteous women of that generation were confident that the Holy One, Blessed be He, would perform miracles for them, so they prepared tambourines and dances.”

The men sang with their voices, but the women’s song was composed with voice, tambourines and dance. The women’s hearts were full of a greater joy, and their song was more comprehensive, equipped with tambourines and dances of joy and faith.

As bitter as their lives had become in Egypt, the women’s faith in their redemption grew stronger.

The women found Miriam’s spirit of rebellion: a feminine strength borne from bitterness, a faith sewn amidst despair.

For more about Miriam, see Miriam, Mother of Rebellion and Miriam, Tambourines of Rebellion.