Miriam Brings Us Water
Today is the 10th of Nisan, the Yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing of the righteous Miriam, older sister of Moshe. We are told that after her death, “vloh haya lahem mayim – there was no water.” That was it. Miriam dies and the water stops. The water was a miraculous well that sprang out of a rock and would travel with the Jews in the desert.
All those years in the desert, the water came about because of the merit of Miriam, but she was so humble that no one realized it. They took the water for granted and never once did anyone realize that it must be coming, this cascading munificence of thirst-quenching water, due to something. They just accepted it. And Miriam, she kept mum, never once saying, “folks, you have me to thank for slaking your thirst.”
Miriam’s merit which allowed her to bring water to the Jewish people was that way back when in Egypt, when she was but a young girl, she had waited by water to ensure the welfare of her baby brother, Moshe, who was hidden in the water. Since G-d rewards with the same measure as the deed done, since her kindness was done by water, it was water which was given in her merit.
The power of a woman – to bring all good into the home, without a need for recognition – that is what we learn from Miriam. Oft times it looks glamorous to be out and running to do kindness for every stranger, to be the soap-box orator urging the world to better itself. Yet, what G-d treasures and rewards are those unglamorous, often overlooked, kindness we do within our own homes and families.
Never underestimate how valuable to G-d are the things you do for family.
The fact that the water came from a rock is also something profound. Form the hardest of places can come wellsprings of giving and nurturing. During an absolute time of danger and sorrow for the Jewish nation and her own personal family, Miriam cared enough to force life to continue, to persuade others that continuing on by having children even in the fact of danger was the right thing to do. From that rocky, seemingly barren time of history, Moshe is born who eventually brings Torah to the nation. From rocks can come water. From the hardest places in our lives can come gushing forth all the nurturing life we might need.
Some quick facts about Miriam:
She was the daughter of Amram and Yocheved. Her parents divorced after Paroh decreed that all Jewish boys would be killed. She then persuaded her parents to remarry, allowing for the birth of Moshe.
She is called Pu’ah in the Torah, also. She was called this when she was serving as the role of midwife to the Jewish women in Egypt. She was one of the midwives who defied Paroh when he told her to kill the babies. The other midwife was her mother Yocheved.
She merited to have the “crown of kingship” – meaning her descendants became the royal family later in history.
She led the women in song after the splitting of the sea, using musical instruments. The women had, in fact, brought along the instruments with them in the Exodus, so sure were they that G-d would do miracles that would allow them to sing His praises.
Her name Miriam is often associated with the word Mar, bitter, because of the bitterness of the Egyptian exile during which she was born. However, the word can be read another way. Mar can mean water (as in the verse K’mar Mi’dlee – like a drop of water from the bucket) and Yam means ocean. Ayn Mayim Elah Torah – we know that water is how we describe Torah and deep spirituality. Miriam was a wellspring of Torah knowledge and spirituality. She was actually one of the women in Jewish history who was a prophetess.
The well of Miriam eventually was sunk into a body of water in Israel. According to the sages, one can see the spot of the well from a mountaintop in Israel. The question is which mountain and which body of water. Some say the Be’er Miriam is in the Kinneret and can be seen from Har Yeshimon. Others claim it is in the Yam Hagadol (Mediterranean Sea) and can be viewed from Har HaCarmel. The Kabbalists (the Arizal and Reb Chaim Vital) claimed to know its exact location and said it was in the Kinneret. Modern archeologists in Israel claimed also to have identified the spot that the Kabbalists referred to. Drinking or immersing in those waters is said to cure illness and to bring the added blessing of comprehension of deep mystical ideas.
There is a Jewish tradition that wells throughout the world get “watered” by the Well of Miriam and that drinking from a well on a Motzei Shabbos would bring healing powers to a sick person.