Miriam. Sister of Aaron. Sister of Moses. Prophetess. Song leader. Leader of women. Bringer-of-water. In this week’s Torah portion, the parasha reveals that Miriam dies. And, along with her, the Israelites’ ready source of water in the desert disappears.
I long have admired Miriam. Though often referred to as “sister of,” she stood on her own two feet. She may not have received the same level of recognition that her brothers merited, but she absolutely was a presence and force to be acknowledged in her own right. Also noteworthy, Miriam is the first woman in the Bible who was not a wife or mother. She defied the stereotypic patriarchal system.
Miriam was special from a young age. It was she who, in a show of ingenuity, made an ark-like basket to float her infant brother down the Nile River out of harm’s reach. It was she who, while running along the river’s bank, ensured his retrieval by the Pharaoh’s daughter. And, it was she, in a display of courage, who offered to secure a nurse for Moses — his own mother — so he could spend his early years amongst his people. Miriam was brave, creative, smart, and self-less.
How sad and down-hearted her brothers and community must have been (for themselves!) upon dealing with her loss! I wonder if Miriam knew she played an important role in their lives. I wonder if they thanked her for the vision, strength, and support she provided for decades.
Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of knowing many women who (unfortunately) have been unsung heroes…women who dedicated themselves — often at their own expense — to fulfilling the needs of family, friends, and even employers. Interestingly, if you speak with them, they’ll tell you they do what they do without expectation of reward. They simply want to feel appreciated and valued. A “thank you” is nice to hear too.
Appreciation. Value. Thanks. We all want to know we matter. When you know you matter — that you really make a difference in this world — it’s totally fine being known as the “sister of…”
At the end of the day, we gotta do what we gotta do. Regardless of name, title, or reward.