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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

To Miriam

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

In Parshat Chukat both Aaron and Miriam breathe their last. In Torah we have seen Miriam as a strong woman, a woman who told truth to power. She was known as the sister of Aaron and Moshe. She led the women in song and dance at the sea. Perhaps I would like to change the words a little bit and say that Aaron and Moshe were brothers to Miriam.

Miriam was no stranger to controversy. She contracted Tza'raat, after speaking about Moshe and his wife. She was punished for this by being removed from the camp, but the Midrash says that the camp would not move until Miriam was brought back in.

As so many women whom read about in torah texts, Miriam was strong and determined. She was one who made the story of the Jewish people move forward, or perhaps I should say that she was one who made our story dance forward. I would like this poem to honor her memory, to give her credit for her bravery and thank her for bringing music and dance to our tradition.



O Miriam,

as your soul departs this world

with a breath and a kiss,

look back.

See one more time

the world around you.

See yourself,

your eyes that have seen,

your lips that have sung,

your hands that held the timbrel,

your feet that have danced


reflected in the waters

You, Miriam,

a doer

a seer

an observer of

not just how things are

but how they can be.


In a world fraught with danger,

others might have run


heads in the sand.

You were not afraid

You stood tall

in a world

where the sands of power shifted.

You took that power

into your own strong hands.

You held it and

shaped it.

You shaped others.

You nudged,

You spoke

You encouraged

You demanded

You spoke out


of sister of Moses and Aaron,

you knew the power of words.

You knew that they could build

or destroy.

Your words became poetry


like birds,

they escaped into music.


oh prophetess of song,

You saw for others

saw into others,

saw above and through others

Words of courage

escaped your lips.

Words that stand up to power

Words to coax and

words to change

You opened the

pathways to hearts.

Oh Miriam,


who heard music when others heard

only the noise of fear,

the cacophony of tumult


who could feel

the music


in the air,

above the roar of the water,


begging to be found.


who could find the poetry

to define the indescribable


And that music floated above the sea

I hear it now still.


You, who spoke your mind

You who held the hands of your brothers

Who enabled life


who stood on the shores and sang.

Who captured a beat,

who discovered spirit

and shared it

as the tune carried itself onto the wind.

You clapped and jumped and shimmied

and wove yourself

in and out of people

Miriam, oh keeper of the music

Who saw the power of notes

flying through the air!

Can you remember

The Song at the Sea?

How your feet flew?

Your scarves caught the light,

like the feathers of birds

as you danced. The waves twirled turquoise

The symphony of the voices

a tune

above the waters

in harmony

The warm salt air,

a spray enveloping

outstretched hands.

Sandaled feet elevated,

voices flying along with feet

Linen and wool.

White and blue.

Voices rising.

The sky mirrored in the sea

in a dance that lasts forever

even now,




The power of the timbrels.

One wrist striking the taut skin

The sound of a bell

The sound of a heartbeat

The sound of thousands

of heartbeats

Drums pounding

The joy

The release

Hands outstretched

Miriam, your feet flew

your scarves caught the light

Like the feathers of birds


Some are born at extraordinary times

and are ordinary

Some are born at extraordinary times and

rise above the extraordinary.

Like the song of a bird.

Oh, Miriam, prophetess of song

Sister of Moses and Aaron,

Daughter of Yochebed and Amram

Can you hear the water flow, even now?

Can you hear the music, even now?

They are for you.

We are still here and

we still sing.

We are still dancing.

Exodus 15:20 (From Sefaria)

Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels.

Numbers 20:1 (From Sefaria)

The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

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