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Some part-formed ideas about Miriam the sister of Moses

may mean “bitter sea” - connected with bitter water of Marah. Perhaps also a connection to the Sea that drowned the Egyptians.

At Mara:
Like the “Sotah” ritual, God is jealous of Israel who has been in Egypt (“consorting” perhaps, as it were with another man – not her husband). The bitter waters of Marah are made sweet (peace between husband and wife is achieved) by dissolving the “Etz” – Etz chayim = torah in the waters, Bene Yisrael drink and all is well again. This is a parallelism to the dissolving of a scroll with the Name of G-d written on it in water and the wife of the jealous husband has to drink it. “There he tested them”.

Healing comes out of it – Miryam connected with God healing as in Moses’ prayer “El na refah lah” – God is first seen as a healer here at Mara. “I am the Lord who heals you”.
Miryam is also associated with bringing husband and wife back together again (as with the Sotah ritual in which allows his name to be erased for the sake of reuniting Husband and Wife):

1st with her parents in Egypt (The Midrash has it that they had separated after the cruel decree of the Pharaoh and Miryam chided them – “Pharaoh only wanted to destroy the boys – you would destroy the girls as well!” upon which they got back together again and Moses was born.)

2nd in her criticism of Moshe because she saw he had separated from Tzipporah.
In Talmudic tradition the sudden disappearance of Hur from the narrative of Exodus is explained by the claim that Hur was killed when he tried to prevent the making of the Golden Calf.

Dvar acher (Another idea): Hur is the grandfather of Betzalel and the wife or son of Miryam (and father, or maybe son, of Caleb). The murder of Hur might also be a cause of bitterness for Miryam. (Think of connection to Naomi who says call me not Naomi but Mara, after losing her men folk). Rashi quoting Misrash identifies Puah, one of the midwives of the Hebrews who saves the boy children from Pharoah's evil decree, with Miryam. Puah means "Splendid". God rewards them with "Houses" understood by tradition to be Dynasties of Kings (for Miriam) and Priests (for Yocheved).
If so Miriam is ancestress of King David (also a creative singer/songwriter). Possibly Ephrata is a synonym for Miryam (Targum). Like Shirat haYam, David’s psalms often do not come across as “universalistic and left-wing” but more as a man with enemies who has faith in God to destroy them. Also this makes another link with Naomi.
The name Ephrata and the association of Ephrata the place with Bethlehem is also a connection to Naomi, Ruth and David.

“Miryam’s well“

There was, according to the Midrash, a well that was associated with Miriam, that wandered around everywhere the Children of Israel went in the Wilderness.

Then God bade him go with some elders to the rock on Horeb, and fetch water out of it. The elders were to accompany him there, that they might be convinced that he was not bringing water from a well, but smiting it from a rock. To accomplish this miracle, God bade him smite the rock with his rod, as the people labored under the impression that this rod could only bring destruction, for through its agency Moses had brought the ten plagues upon the Egyptians in Egypt, and at the Red Sea; now they were to see that it could work good also. Upon God's bidding, Moses told the people to choose from which rock they wished water to flow, and hardly had Moses touched with his sapphire rod the rock which they had chosen, when plenteous water flowed from it. The spot where this occurred, God called Massah, and Meribah, because Israel had there tried their God, saying, "If God is Lord over all, as over us; if He satisfies our needs, and will further show us that He knows our thoughts, then will we serve Him, but not otherwise."

The water that flowed for them on this spot served not only as a relief for their present need, but on this occasion there was revealed to them a well of water, which did not abandon them in all their forty years' wandering, but accompanied them on all their marches. God wrought this great miracle for the merits of the prophetess Miriam, wherefore also it was called"Miriam's Well." But his well dates back to the beginning of the world, for God created it on the second day of the creation, and at one time it was in the possession of Abraham. It was this same well that Abraham demanded back from Abimelech, king of the Philistines, after the king's servants had violently taken it away. But when Abimelech pretended not to know anything about it, saying, "I wot not who hath done this thing," Abraham said: "Thou and I will send sheep to the well, and he shall be declared the rightful owner of the well, for whose sheep the water will spout forth to water them. And," continued Abraham, "from that same well shall the seventh generation after me, the wanderers in the desert, draw their supply."

(from Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews)

Numbers Chapter 20 verses 21 – 22
In v.21 Miryam died
In v.22 there was no water...Moses again has to do the striking the rock thing (told to “speak to it”...)
I fancy that he was going through bereavement anger following the death of Miryam.
There is also a connection to Rachel (Ephrata is first mentioned in connection with the death of Rachel – hence the pilgrimage site of the tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem.

The following is from a Chabad article:
The image of the young woman standing watch in the thicket of rushes at the edge of the Nile, the hope of redemption persevering against the bitterness of galut (exile) in her heart, evokes the image of another watching matriarch -- Rachel. As the prophet Jeremiah describes it, it is Rachel who, in her lonely grave on the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, weeps over her children's suffering in galut. It is she, more than the male patriarchs or leaders of Israel, who feels the depth of our pain; it is her intervention before G-d, after theirs has failed, which brings the redemption.


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February 2017

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