Sunday, January 22, 2006

Parshas Shemos I: Miriam's Name

Why did Amram and Yocheved decide to call their daughter Miriam? Although I haven’t seen it anywhere, I am assuming that she was named for the bitter golus that the B'nei Yisroel were enslaved in. (Miriam = Mar= bitter). The question then is why name her after the bitterness of golus. If you want to make reference to the situation, why not reference the positive and call her Tikveh (hope), Nechamah (comfort) or even Geulah (redemption). At least this way the galus would be remebered in a positive light.

I think you can answer this question with the following idea. We say in Hallel, “odecha ki anisani...”-I thank Hashem for aflicting me”. Why do we thank Hashem for the affliction? It is understandable that we thank Hashem for saving us, but what is there to thank about affliction? The teretz is that the affliction itself has a purpose. It is not just a form of punishment, but all yesorin are there to mold us and shape us. We grow stronger and closer to Hashem thru our nisyonos. This idea is never more applicable than to Golus Mitzrayim. The golus in Mitzrayim was not just an onesh because Avraham did not show the proper emunah. Rather, it is referred to as the “kor habarzel”, the fiery furnace thru which the nation of Klal Yisroel was shaped and molded. The bitterness and pain we went thru was an essential part of who we were and what we became. It is perhaps for this reason that Amram chose to name his daughter Miriam and remember the bitterness of the golus. He wanted to eternalize this idea, that without the trial and tribulations of Mitzrayim we would never have become a nation.


1) I looked in Ishei HaTanach and sure enough I was right! The Yalkut Shemoni as well as other medrashim explain that Miriam was named for the bitter golus.

2) L'chorah, my p'shat will also explain why we eat marror on Pesach.

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