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April 10: Big Sister

April 10, 2014

Miriam_IMG_28071Miriam, the sister who safeguarded the baby Moses during his journey in a basket along the Nile, and then led freed Hebrew women slaves in song and dance after they crossed the Red Sea, died at 126 on this date in 1274 BCE, according to Jewish biblical calculations (which count the Earth as 5,774 years old). In addition to watching over her brother, Miriam also defied his leadership by objecting (along with their brother Aaron) to Moses’ marriage to a Cushite woman, asking “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” — for which she was struck with a snow-white skin disease and shut out of the camp of the Hebrews for seven days. Many Jews today place a “Cup of Miriam,” filled with water, alongside the customary “Cup of Elijah,” filled with wine, at the seder table, to symbolize Miriam’s well, which legend says accompanied the Hebrew people on their long journey through the wilderness.

“He who wants to see the well of Miriam should go up to the top of Mount Carmel and he will see the likes of a sieve in the sea; and that is the well of Miriam.” -Shabbat 35a (Talmud)