February 22, 2010 Leave a comment
There are certainly things about Judiasm that drive me nuts. and one of them is re-defining history or embelishing the text in order that women can be portrayed in a more significant light. don’t get me wrong, there are significant women in the bible. certainly. but that doesnt mean there are significant women in every story, or that though significant, they must be equally studied for each holiday. Lets take passover for instance. As part of a comittee that plans and executes Rosh Chodesh events for grad students and young professionals in the providence area, we have been talking about the “significance” of Miraim. I am the minority in our group of four in that I believe that Miriam has very little significance in the bible, and certainly no significance in the actual process of the exodus.
Here is my research on her, and on the other women recently placed on a pedastal of signficant women figures in the exodus.
Shiprah and Puah are mentioned in exodus 13 and are thus important women in the bible. However, they were not mose’s midwives. They are two midwives that defied pharoah because of their faith and fear of G-d. To me, this is a lesson of faith and not of their significance in the exodus.
To mention moses mother means to acknowledge that abrahams mother and the mother of every other significant person in the bible is important. yes. i think honoring them is absolutely a great thing to do because, as one of the 10 commandments, it is important to honor thy parents. but what does that have to do with the miracle of the exodus?
here is a website that dictates “miriams role in the bible.” She is mentioned four times. I then went and read each of these four passages thoroughly. The first is the only moment that I think bears any significance. (Note: I am using a tanakh published by the jewish publication society for reference.)
the first, she is not mentioned by name, but merely as moses “sister” who watches the basket and then tell pharoah’s daughter that she knows a wet nurse (Moses mother). Certainly an important moment because Moses is allowed to grow to adulthood. but then equally important is Pharoah daughter, who had the authority (and power) to kill the child and the girl watching over him. (hey now we have TWO women to thank! 🙂
second to sing a song ( Does leading a song have significance in the exodus?). Moses sung a much longer song in the text. It used to be that neither song was mentioned during passover. now, in an effort to incorporate women, we include her song, but not usually the one by moses, isn’t that kind of reverse discrimination?
Third: Numbers 12: she (and Aaron) criticize Moses for marrying a “cushite” woman (or a woman of another race) and G-d gives her leprosy. I don’t see this as Miriams “ordeal” but rather as her being racist and critical of the person G-d chose to speak to directly. That is not really something to honor her for. Though it does bring up the relevant point that G-d chose to punish Miriam and not Aaron though both are mentioned in having been involved.
fourth: Miriams death: 20: 1 : “Miriam died there and was buried there.” and that is the end of reference to Miriam. The next story in the bible is that of the jewish people longing for water and the whole sotry of Moses striking a rock and water flows forth but moses is punished for striking the rock. This is where the idea of “miriams well” stems from. Rashi says that because one follows the other there is therefore a connection and thus the reason the water was at that place was because miriam died there. Personally I think this is another lesson about faith and trust in G-d and thus moses’s punishment. I don’t believe G-d is honoring Miriam by giving the thirsty Jewish people water merely because they are listed in the same chapter of the bible. When the bible wants to emphasize the importance of a death it does so very clearly. Like in genesis 25 with the death of abraham. Also, it is important to keep in mind that none of the original scrolls had chapters at all. They were actually added in the 13th century (http://www.jstor.org/pss/3259119) so I don’t really understand why Rashi thinks this bears any signficance. perhaps Miriam’s death would have been the END of the prior chapter in G-ds eyes.
anyways. just wanted to vent my frustration and share with all my readers what it is that I have learned. There will never be a miriam’s cup at my passover seder.