The End of Miriam? By David Hartley Mark

Chukat (חקת)
Torah: Numbers 19:1 – 22:1
Haftarah: Judges 11:1 – 11:33

I was the Eldest Child of Amram Ha-Levi and Yocheved, the clever one, the wise one, but the Thundering God, Who speaks from the Midst of Cloud and Fire, Who is All-Wise, All-Powerful, Who sees Past, Present, Future, All, All as One!

He forgot about me.

My brother Aaron—the Priest, the Interlocutor ‘twixt Earth and Heaven, Bringer of Offerings, Holy Sacrificer, He who brought to Death so many Birds and Beasts, to placate our G-d-Most-High; Aaron, who was also a Welcomer to Life, present at many a Brit-Milah, a Circumcision, Naming all Male Babies (but never, never a Female; no, that was left to me, me alone)—and a Peacemaker between Men! For Men are Warlike, quick to argue, to push and shove, to fight, to draw swords—over what? A piece of Land, a Religion, a scrap of Parchment, the ownership of—well, who knows? They are Men; they are oft times Fools, and, in the End, only the Women and Children mourn—yes, my Brother Aaron, the peacemaker….

Finally (or Firstly), my brother Moses—Chief of the Prophets, he! Who spoke with G-d, face-to-face, no visionary, no dreamer, no entranced-inhaler-of-volcanic-fumes (as were the Cumaean and Delphic Sibyls); no Roman augurer, reader-of-animal-guts; no. He spoke directly with God, clearly, directly, nor through any glass, darkly or clear. But it made him blind—to his loving wife, my sister, Zipporah; to his lost boys, Gershom and Elazar, God knows where they are, to this day! They are lost, to the Torah; Time has swallowed them up….


Do you know where your sons are, Father Moses?


For Moses, nothing on earth existed, save three: his God, his Torah, and his People. Never his family. So was his choice; so went his life.


I strove to remind him, plead Zipporah’s case—and God struck my skin with a harsh disease, because of it. Bless my Israelite women for refusing to move their families, until I was healed, and Zipporah for visiting me, there in the Exile-Tent, pitched far from the camp of my people!


For I, Sister Miriam, who was I?


I rescued him, Babe Moses, by watching his reed basket afloat down River Nile, Mother Nile, Mother-and-Nurturer to Egypt, but the Killer of our baby Hebrew boys—the Pharaoh decreed they be drowned there;

I urged—little me! What chutzpah I had—the Princess of Egypt to adopt him, to raise him, and more—

To hire our mother, Yocheved, to be his wetnurse, thereby assuring Moses both forms of education: Egyptian, yes, and our Hebrew—so that he was best fit to flourish, as a Prince of Egypt, and a Prophet of our People.

Until the time came, when our Mysterious God broke forth, calling him to his destiny, from the midst of a thornbush—


All these things, All, were my doing—


And what was my reward? It’s true that I led the women, in dancing and singing at the Sea of Reeds,


And possibly—it’s Midrash-legend only—a “traveling well” pursued us through the Wilderness—though I think it’s a fable.


Also that nowadays some folks put a Fifth?—Sixth?—Cup on their Passover-Seder-Meal-Table, dedicated in My Name, and My Honor—


But Moses never acknowledged me.

The Rabbis never paid homage to me.

In the Tradition (and what is Judaism, save Tradition?), there is little honor paid me,


But what was my crime?

To be born a Woman,

Eldest of Our Family,

And to love my People so….


Bloom forever, O Israel, from the dust of my bosom!



Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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