- Rabbi Isaac Roussel
Taking Miryam's Stance
Our parsha this week includes the splitting of the Red Sea. After Israel walks to the other side and Egypt’s army is swallowed by the sea, the people sing a song of rejoicing. After this Miryam leads the women in song. The question that our Sages ask is why does Miryam need to sing a song? The people just finished praising Hashem for His deliverance. According to Shemot Rabbah there are two clues in the verse itself. Exodus 15:20 says, “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels.”
The first clue is that Miryam is called a prophet. The second clue is her odd description. She is called Aaron’s sister. Why not Moses as well? Shemot Rabbah explains that this is because Miryam gave her prophecy about Moses’ birth, therefore she is just called Aaron’s sister.
When Paro decreed that all male children must be killed, Miryam’s parents separated. But she prophesied that they would give birth to the one who would save their people, so they came back together. Moshe was born and his mother hid him in a basket in the reeds at the bank of the river. She left, but Miryam stayed “at a distance” to see what God would do. She wondered how this was going to work out, if the future savior was being put into such a precarious position. Can you imagine her shock and dismay? Paro’s daughter finds her brother! Paro’s daughter of all people!
So this is why, according to the Midrash, that Miryam merited her own song. She stood in faith to see how Hashem was going to solve an impossible situation.
Spin forward many years and the people of Israel are in a similar position. It's not just one man being threatened but a whole nation. They are not at a river full of reeds, but the Sea of Reeds. They are not facing just an Egyptian princess but an entire army! They cry out in dismay. But Moshe urges them, “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the LORD will work for you today” He is urging them to take the stance of faith that Miryam had so many years ago. They are recapitulating her experience. In fact Moshe uses the exact same word as the text describes Miryam, tit-yatz-vu, stand, take position, and see. He is calling them to take a stance of faith, even in the face of a seemingly impossible position.
Spin ahead yet even more centuries and Yeshua described his impending death as an Exodus. The One-Man Israel is facing an impossible position. His followers must be crying out, “How is God going to save him?” And what do we have? Mattityahu tells us that as others were taunting him, “There were many women there, looking on from a distance… Among them were Miryam from Magdala, Miryam the mother of Ya‘akov and Yosef, and the mother of Zavdai’s sons.” We have not one, but two Miryams who stood at a distance.They took station, looking on with eyes of faith, to see what God was going to do. And to their joy, they did see! They go to the tomb and find it empty, and sing their song of joy to his other talmidim!
Spin forward many more centuries to a time yet to come, at the End of Days. The kings of the world look upon the destruction of Bavel in dismay and fear. But we are urged to stand and see that the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed (Rev 5:5). And then we can join with the whole assembly of those dedicated to Hashem in singing the Song of Moshe (Rev 15:3)!
We often find ourselves in the place of Miryam. Faced with an impossible situation, we have the choice to either cry out in fear or despair, or stand, take our position, and watch with eyes of faith to see what God will do for us.
May we have the faith of Miryam and not succumb to the despair of the people.
May we take our stand, between an army and a raging sea, and look with eager expectation.
And then we can join our song to hers and sing joyously about Hashem’s great redemption.