Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. — Hebrew scripture (Exodus 15:20)
IN TODAY'S SESSION. . .
Today, we used a hardhat to symbolize the quality of resiliency. The children talked about how we bounce back from hard times, including the difficulty in enduring challenging times and how resiliency helps us. We allowed time for participants to share bounce-back strategies they have tried and strategies they want to try. We emphasized that under stress and in difficult times, even prophetic women and men had to take small steps to reach a larger benefit. We explored Miriam, the resilient prophet in Hebrew scripture who was the sister of Moses, in biblical text and in a shared story, to encourage Unitarian Universalist children to seek their own interpretations and wisdom from classic stories.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about. . .
Miriam's baby brother faced execution. She bounced back from this horror with quick thinking about how to save him. Later, her people faced recapture by Pharaoh's chariots and soldiers at the border of the Red Sea. Upon their escape across the water, she demonstrated her resiliency by initiating a dance of celebration upon their rescue.
Ask your child to tell you about Miriam's resiliency. Invite everyone in the family to share their answers to these questions:
- Have there been difficult times when you have been able to bounce back? How?
- What ways of being resilient might you like to try that you have not tried yet?
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try...
A FAMILY GAME
The story of Miriam has many variations. Read together a few different children's books about Miriam, Moses, and the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt. Or, have each family member read a different version. Then, compare the versions you have read.
In many versions, Miriam plays a minor role, with Moses the "star" of the story. Miriam is the protagonist in the picture book, Miriam and Her Brother Moses: A Bible Story, retold and illustrated by Jean Marzollo (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2003). The book includes some cute questions and answers, in the voice of a little fish, which run along the bottom of every page.
In Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story, written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Bob Dacey (New York: Scholastic Press, 1998), a modern little girl named Miriam hears the story of Passover, and Miriam's role. Her mother tells how Miriam foretold Moses' birth to lead their people to freedom, helped ensure Moses' safety as he floated along in a basket, and later led a singing celebration of freedom and was considered responsible for a well of clear spring water that followed the Hebrews through their wanderings in the desert. The author cites Hebrew scripture as well as Jewish commentary, legend, and tradition and includes (on the book jacket) the music and lyrics to "Miriam's Song," by composer Debbie Friedman.
For another version, watch the 1998 animated DreamWorks film, The Prince of Egypt. Before you do, you may like to read a sermon by Rabbi Barry H. Block, given January 15, 1999. He illuminates the difference between the actual text of Hebrew scripture (the Torah) and the layers of stories upon stories that make up midrash, added to tradition by subsequent generations. As midrash stories often amplify the voices of the women mentioned in the Bible, in The Prince of Egypt both Moses' sister, Miriam, and his wife, Zipporah, play significant roles.
Adults and older children in your family may like to take a "Resiliency Quiz" online and read about ways to help oneself or another become more resilient. The Resiliency in Action website of Nancy Henderson, MSW offers insights into the qualities that help people bounce back from a significant trauma or crisis. One of these qualities is patience.