22 Pharaoh commanded his entire people saying: every son born you will fling into the river and every girl you will allow to live.
1 A man of the Levi family went out; he took a daughter of Levi. 2 This woman became pregnant, she gave birth to a son; she looked him over because he was good, she hid him for 3 months. 3 When he could no longer hide him, she took a basket of reeds which she lined with clay and tar; she put the boy in it and put it in the bulrushes.Exodus 1 and Exodus 2
The heartache of Miriam, as she saw her baby brother float away, must have been as deep as a well. Miriam wanted to take hold of her infant brother and kiss his tiny toes. Unflinching she watched and waited; she thought back to the few months before he was born. She remembered how closely she watched her mother’s body expand to accommodate the baby. The day he was born was not a joyful occasion but became a day of fear, because he was a boy. The adults all protected him and prevented him from crying, while Miriam had wanted to make him laugh. Eventually she was allowed to cuddle and hush him to prevent his discovery.
5 Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bath in the Nile and her female servants were walking near the Nile when a basket appeared inside the bulrushes, Pharaoh’s daughter sent her servant to take it. 6 She opened it and they saw the child, the boy cried so she took pity on him; she said: this is from the Hebrews.Exodus 2
Miriam had been warned to stand far from him, just far enough that she can only hear his cries but not see his face. She had no idea that the distance on that first separation would seem slight as time passed. Miriam might have felt fear and trepidation, but she didn’t flinch when she spoke to Pharaoh’s daughter.
7 His sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter: I will call a woman nurse from the Hebrews for you, she will nurse the child. 8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her: go; the girl went and got the child’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her: take this child, nurse him and I will give you wages; she took the child and she nursed him.Exodus 2
Miriam held him again and cuddled him on their way back home. Did she shed tears of relief as she carried her baby brother back home? These two siblings walked away from that river and their lives combined into the flow of myth and history.
10 The child grew up so they brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter; he became a son to her, she called him Moses, she said: because I drew him out of the water.Exodus 2
Miriam’s circumstances are familiar to all older siblings, who often see these babies as part of themselves and played with them as cubs – laughing, kicking and biting in the hot summer sun. Suddenly the darling infant is no more, journeying into the flow of a new life. Some grow up like tigers while some falter, some sit around the fire and think while others blaze trails in expanding horizons.
7 Save me from mighty waters
a new song I will sing to youPsalm 144
9 I will go up on the wings of dawn
I will reside in the end of the sea;
10 there your hand will comfort me
And your right hand will hold on to mePsalm 139
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021