What could be worse than being in a bitter environment, enslaved and beaten by immoral and cruel people?

Being in such an environment—and being apathetic. Being in such an environment and having no hope of escape. Being in such an environment and being convinced, Stockholm syndrome-style, that it is the only way to live.

When Moses’ older sister was born in Egypt, she was named Miriam (“Bitter”), reflecting the bitter reality she was born into. The Jews were enslaved and beaten, and the Egyptians embittered their lives.

But why name a child “Bitter”? Why wallow in bitterness—wouldn’t that only serve to demoralize her and her loved ones?

Contrary to what we’d think, her name was actually the key to redemption. Miriam signified not a depressed bitterness, but a motivated one—a bitterness fueled by the faith that exile would end. While others made peace with their lot or despaired of ever being freed, Miriam waited expectantly for the day the Jews would be redeemed. Miriam embodied hope, the desire to be free and the staunch belief that the redemption would arrive.

She was so convinced that the Jews would permanently leave Egypt that she packed tambourines into her sack, waiting for the miracles she was sure would occur. In fact, as soon as the miracles actually unfolded, Miriam, along with other women who were prepared, retrieved their instruments, and began playing and singing with gratitude to G‑d.

Far from being negative, Miriam’s bitterness over the state of exile inspired the Jews to believe in the coming redemption.

Thoughtstream: Today, I will not be complacent about the present state of exile; I will do a good deed and consciously ask G‑d to redeem us.

(Adapted from Sefer HaSichot 5752, vol. I, pg. 306.)