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[german version]

by Eveline Goodman-Thau

"And his sister Miriam stood from afar and
watched to see what would befall him."
Shmoth - 2 Mose 2,4

A Letter from Miriam to Moses

That night I had a dream:
I stood in a long dress at the bank of the river. It was night, and the dress had the color of my body; in the moonlight no difference could be discerned between my body and my dress. I was white, transparent as a could. I stood on one side of the river Nile and you, a beautiful young man, with long black curls, stood at the other side of the river. At first I did not recognize you. You were wearing the clothes of Egyptian princes, with bear shoulders and thighs, but with high forehead and black curls reminded me of Aaron, our brother. I called to you, and you looked at me with total surprise, and wanted to answer my call. Your lips were moving, but no sound came from your throat. It seemed as if your tongue had become heavy in your throat. And then you suddenly turned, and I saw a great many people, people, slaves, and understood that these must be Jews, our brethren, and then the silence of the night was shattered by a terrible cry, a cry that echoes from one side of the world to the other, a cry that never ends.

And then I saw how you, my brother Moses, raised your hand to silence this cry. I did not see, whether you had a stone or a sword, but the earth trembled when the man fell... and then all was still. You, with your bare hands, opened the earth, and covered the blood of the man.

I wanted to speak, I wanted to say: Why with a blow, why with force, why not first with words... try to convince him... try to save the Jew in another way... perhaps it is still possible, but perhaps also not... my lips were moving, but no sound came from my throat. My voice was lost in the cold of the desert night.


I stood there, lost, and suddenly the picture changed and again I was standing at the bank, in my white dress, transparent like a could. This time it was at the bank of the Red Sea and looking into the desert. I was tired, I had stood there for such a long time, waiting for the way when you would remember your sister Miriam, the "Bitter" one, the one "Rising from the Water", the singer, who had led all the women in song and dance since God had destroyed the horses and chariots of the Egyptians, so they could no longer make a war. Day and night I had waited for you. Never had I married... and instead of me, the "Shining" one, you had found a dark woman, who stood in your shadow, did not urge you to speak.

Who, on the way, had saved your life with a stone, not to kill, but to save you from death. To bind you and you and her son, the "Stranger" in a covenant, a covenant with her... a covenant, which our mothers and grandmothers had sealed with God. But with her you have never spoken, this act of saving, like mine, you never saw, just as you could not save the Egyptian, only his victim... And then, then I suddenly saw you, now a tired, old man, with a long grey beard and a large rod. Next to you stood Aaron, our brother, in splendid, priestly garments.

And I saw your dark, small, but strong woman, in the background in the shadow, a mute, quiet servant. Then, she suddenly stood next to you, and then before you, face to face. You looked at her, but your eyes did not see her, you spoke to her, but you did not hear her. Her lips were moving, but no sound came from her throat. You wanted to ask her, why... but your tongue had become heavy in your throat...

Only with Moses do I speak from mouth to mouth

And then, then I saw suddenly myself, I stood next to you, in the same white dress, white like the moon, white like the night, white like my body. And I screamed: what is the matter with her? Why is she dark? Why don't you hear her?... And then, then here were only three people standing there: you, Moses and Aaron and I, the sister Miriam with her two brothers, born from one womb... we looked at each other, and knew... And then suddenly came a voice, like a thunder from heaven, an answer to a question, to the question, I had asked myself for all my life, which had echoed from one end of the world to the other, through all times, like a constant cry: "Did God only speak to Moses?" Finally it was said, the unspeakable was spoken, for ever and ever, never to be forgotten, never to be erased, to be asked again and again... But a voice thundered from heaven: "Only with Moses do I speak from mouth to mouth."

The voice enveloped in a could in front of the Tent of Meeting, where we were standing, and when all was quit, and the cloud had lifted, I stood there, completely white, guilty, but innocent, in my white dress, white like my body, but now leprous like snow... You my brothers, looked at me in fear and led me out of the camp, far away from all people. There I remained alone, seven days and seven nights, as the number of the Days of Creation and waited for you, my brother Moses, to give you speech, so that your tongue might be light in your mouth, the movement of your lips may be light in your mouth, the movement of your lips may be heard as a voice from your throat.

To teach you from my mouth, to sing, to dance, to laugh, and more than anything else, to speak and not to strike... to return to you your mother tongue.
"Who is she who comes up from the desert like columns of smoke... all of them trained in warfare, skilled in battle, each with sword on thigh because of terror by night... Don't stare at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has gazed upon me. My mother's sons quarreled with me, they made me guard the vineyard; My own vineyard I did not guard... Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love... I held him fast, I would not let him go till I brought him to my mother's house, to the chamber of her who conceived me..."

I waited for you, but you did not come... and I wanted to die. But you, you prayed to God for my sake, and I recovered and had to go on, through the dry desert mute, without words, without a voice, until I became sick and weak and completely dried out. There was no more water... One day I could not go on any further and there I died in the desert, at a spot called "Holy"...

At that moment I woke up form my sleep and wanted to get up, but a silent voice told me: "Miriam, wait for one more moment, I want to show you something". I closed my eyes and dreamed again:

There you stood, Moses, and Aaron and the entire people of Israel around you and all were screaming and yelling at you: "Why did you take us out of Egypt and bring us to this deserted place where one cannot sow, to die here, where there are no figs and no dates, no pomegranates, and no water to drink... And I saw the look on your face as once in the burning bush, when you did speak: "What if they do not believe me... do not listen to me and say: God did not appear to you... how God had changed your rod into a snake and your hand into a leprous member... how you became slow of speech and tongue then... how you pleaded not to go: please, God, make someone else your agent... and how God refused: "Aaron, your brother shall be your mouthpiece, and I, God, will guide your tongue...

"A prayer for Moses, the man of God: ... Give us joy for as long as You have afflicted us, for the years we have suffered misfortune".
And now, as then, God spoke with you: "Take your rod and speak to the rock. Thus you shall bring forth water from it..." And my heart stood still... now it will happen, at last Moses will speak, with his own tongue, liberated from the weight of his mouth... speak, speak now please, I whispered, speak up, I begged... but: "And Moses took the rod and struck the rock twice...", and water bursted forward from it. The people drank and drank and drank this water, obtained by force... Again, you Moses, my brother had lost, you could not speak and God closed therefore the Promised Land before you... I stretched out my arms, but could not save you, this time...

Song of the Well

Then suddenly I saw a long column of people, men, women and children, from many countries and many nations, poor and rich. All were going barefoot through the desert, in silence, without words, without a voice. Finally, they came to place called "Be'er" - Well - and there, like a burst of light in a dark night, these people began to sing, first very silently, quiet, their tongues were still heavy in their mouth. But gradually their voices became stronger and stronger and they sang from the fullness of their throat, and their voices echoed from one end of the world to the other, and all, the entire world sang with Israel the "Song of Miriam", the "Song of the Well": "Spring up, O well - sing to her..."
And these voices opened all eyes of the earth and water emerged from the depth of depths and embraced the waters of heaven.

I felt as if awakened from a deep sleep and tears streamed down my face, like water from a deep well... The Egyptian sun streamed into my room, I quickly got up, bathed and put on a long white dress, transparent like a cloud, and went down to the Nile to see, what would become of you, my little brother Moses.

"And his sister Miriam stood from afar and watched to see what would befall him."

Eveline Goodman-Thau was born in Vienna in 1934. She survived the Shoah in a hiding-place in Hilversum (Netherlands). Since 1956 she lived in Jerusalem, where she studied and taught History of Jewish Religion and Philosophy. Since 1985 she moved between Israel and Germany. She had professorships at the Franz-Rosenzweig-Institut at the university of, at the Institut für Orientwissenschaften at the Martin-Luther-University of Halle and at the Harvard Divinity School. In 1999 she founded the Hermann Cohen Academy in Buchen (Odenwald); as its director she organizes conferences and learner's seminaries, especially for Jewish women. Publications: "Zeitbruch - Zur messianischen Grunderfahrung in der jüdischen Tradition", Berlin 1995.
18th october 2000 she was ordained as the first orthodox woman rabbi.

1 Genesis 12
Genesis 26
Exodus 1,17
Exodus 2,11-15
Exodus 4,10-20
Exodus 15,19-21
Numbers 12,1-16
Numbers 20,1-2
Numbers 21,16-18
Song of Songs 1,2,3
Ps 90, 1 und 15

(shortened version)

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