The Four Questions of Miriam

The name "Miriam" stems from the Hebrew word for "bitter" (mar), and Miriam has every right to feel that way.

"Miriam who?" you might ask?

My point exactly.

I'm talking about the biblical Israelite heroine and prophetess, without whom Moses never would have been born and the Israelites would not have escaped Egypt, nor would they have survived 40 years in the desert. Miriam played an integral role in the story of Exodus, yet she's all but ignored during Passover, the holiday that commemorates the Exodus. It's not surprising, in a way; while Miriam's feats, as depicted in the Torah and the Talmud, make her a woman worth celebrating, she is slighted, punished, ignored and underestimated for much of her life.

In keeping with Passover's emphasis on groupings of fours, I have compiled four questions (and answers) about Miriam's life that reveal her courage, her spirit and her central role in the Exodus. You are encouraged to drink four glasses of Manischewitz as you read them. Or, better yet, ask a child (or four) to chant them aloud.

1. Did Miriam really save the Jewish people? Yes, and at the age of 6, no less.

2. Did Miriam really choose music over food? Yes. Who needs leavened bread when you've got tambourines?

3. What did Miriam do to deserve being struck with leprosy? She stood up to Moses, and was a woman.

4. Did anyone appreciate her gifts? Yes, but mostly after she died. Figures.

For more in-depth answers and explanations of these questions, please check out the full article in the Jewish Journal.

This is an excerpt of an article that appeared in print and online in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. If you're interested in reading more of my writing for the Jewish Journal, click here for my Purim Cover Story, "The Other Woman of Purim: Vashti, the Queen Who Kept Her Clothes On."