By: Felice Oltuski
Young Adult Division (YAD) Manager
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Chukat-Balak, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, dies, and the well that follows the Israelites throughout their journey in the desert dries up. The Zohar, a mystical commentary on the Torah, explains that we were given an ever-flowing well in the merit of Miriam because of Miriam’s courage and faith.
At the age of 5, Miriam watched over Moses as he floated along the Nile River to ensure his safety. When Pharaoh’s daughter sees Moses and decides to keep him as her own, Miriam bravely steps forward and offers to find a Hebrew wet nurse for him, who we later find out is his own mother. Miriam is also known for her positivity and unyielding faith. She believed so strongly that God would take the Jews out of Egypt that she prepared tambourines prior to leaving so that they would be able to sing and praise God in the desert.
Having courage and faith in the face of hopelessness is no small feat. Miriam’s strength came despite a decree to kill Jewish newborns and to enslave Jews at the hands of the Egyptians. Her bravery reminds us that leadership can look many different ways.
It is easy to identify leadership attributes in someone who is loud and comfortable being in the limelight, but if we don’t pay close attention, we will miss out on great people and great leaders who lead in more subtle ways. It is on us to open our eyes and truly see people and all that they have to offer. In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z’l, “To be a leader, you do not need a crown or robes of office. All you need to do is to write your chapter in the story, do deeds that heal some of the pain of this world, and act so that others become a little better for having known you. Live so that, through you, our ancient covenant with God is renewed in the only way that matters: in life.”