Miriam haNavia is an exemplary role model for us, in numerous ways.
Her empowering messages live on for all Jewish women and girls to follow.
One of the greatest lessons of character Miriam can teach us, is that of possessing confidence and convictions.
The eighth pasuk of Eishes Chayil is recited as follows: “Chagra b’oz matneha, vateametz zro’oteha – She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms.”
Who girds their loins? A warrior. She prepares for battle, hanging her weapon at her waist, and bracing herself for the challenge.
The eishes chayil this pasuk alludes to, is Miriam, the prepared prophetess.
She was prepared for the dark times of slavery and persecution that lay ahead, armed with her prophecy of a brighter future, that the Jewish People would be led out of bondage by a leader designated by Hashem.
She confidently shared her nevua, her prophecy, with others, and tried to encourage and strengthen them.
Time passed, the suffering wore on, and people doubtfully asked her “What became of your prophecy?”
Miriam was not to be deterred. She had faith in Hashem, and remained positive in their dire situations, and confident with her prophecy. Hashem gave her this gift, so she wasn’t going to doubt it. Her words were Hashem’s words, and sure to be fulfilled. Her confidence, even when she could’ve been bitter from those scorning her, was what kept her going in those bleak times.
A warrior must stand strong, and not be afraid to fight back.
Miriam endangered her life, risking igniting Paroh’s wrath, by defying his command to kill all baby boys that she helped the Jewish women to deliver. She was there with them to help, nurture, and carry on life and tradition. She held onto her ideals, even in the face of her personal danger.
Talmud (Sotah) teaches us that “In the merit of righteous women, the Jewish People were redeemed from Egypt.”
Miriam was certainly one of those beacons, and a leader to her people. In the immoral and idol-worshipping Egyptian environment, she preserved her morals, inspiring others with her strength. She held fast to her convictions.
Rabbi Boruch Leff, in his book Shabbos for the Soul, shares a profound insight, and paraphrases the Satmar Rav:
The Hebrew word for Egypt, “Mitzrayim”, is rooted in the word “meitzar,” meaning ‘narrow or constricting’, and combined with “yahm,” connoting water, which symbolizes materialism and physicality. Therefore, it implies how the Egyptians lived– they were trapped in out-of-control desire for physical things, and they allowed their animal-neshamas to rule over their daily lives.
Even the word “Paroh”, comes from “parua – wild, and unrestrained”.
The unholy environment of Egyptian civilization was so antithetical to that which the Jews strove for, that it was constricting and suffocating for us.
Even today, there is a little voice inside of us, that sneakily tells us ‘You don’t have enough of such-and-such– you always need more. Enough isn’t enough.” This is the Paroh within us. We have to tell him “no”. We have to fight back against this ta’avah, temptation, and cry out “I AM NOT YOUR SLAVE!”
And now, back to Miriam.
In those hard times, we needed someone to stand as an example for us, a person we could become inspired by and emulate. One of those leaders was Miriam.
She epitomized the mentality “I AM NOT YOUR SLAVE!” in all areas of her leadership, from being a rebel against Paroh, to holding onto her convictions.
Pesach is our holiday of freedom. We must seriously ask ourselves, “What is true freedom?”
True freedom, is when you can say what you want to say. When you’re allowed to express your own ideas and opinions. When you have the chance to make your own choices, unaffected by external forces.
We are so fortunate, since most of us today possess that freedom, and that we can practice our Yiddishkeit openly, and spread it to others, without worrying about being persecuted for it.
It wasn’t so easy for the Jews of Mitzrayim. Much hard labor was forced upon them, under the hand of brutal taskmasters.
They were slipping and sinking in their spirituality and religious observance.
They had to conceal what they had left.
But Miriam was different. She refused to be negatively affected by her circumstances. She continued to persevere, shine her light, hang on to what she believed was right and true. Although she lived in Egypt, and suffered along with her brethren daily, she wasn’t really chained. She didn’t feel bound, spiritually and emotionally.
It was her choice!
We can choose how we let our situations affect us. Perhaps this is the truest form of freedom, one that is forever yours.
You can face your fears. You don’t have to let the negativity break you. No one can take away your soul and spirit!
Miriam chose not to be a slave in her mind, soul, and heart. She was her own ruler.
Hashem requires all people to have anavah, humility. It is a necessary and basic character trait, and one of the three core middos of every Jew. Hashem Himself is extremely humble, so we must mirror Him.
But, Hashem doesn’t want us to walk around with our heads down silently. He does want us to have some pride, to a certain degree, as long as we use this pride to sanctify Hashem.
Miriam once more demonstrates for us. Sometimes a warrior must launch herself to the forefront, when she is fighting for a higher purpose. She can’t be quiet and meek. She battles with vigor, for what she believes is right.
To be a strong chayelet (soldier), she must have confidence in Hashem, and in herself!
Hashem has given us so many unique gifts to use wisely. So when you have confidence for this reason, it doesn’t contradict your humility.
Even in the darkest of times, we must be ‘loud and proud’, spreading our message, our Torah, our convictions. Don’t waver when you’re standing up for what’s important and true.
Miriam always sang her song of hope, and victory!
And when we follow these ideals, we’ll always win the fight for Hashem, and we’ll always find the light!
The Messenger Bird