Batya & Miriam

Nile River - Rod Waddington - jGirls+ Magazine

Miriam’s Point of View

I am Miriam, a Hebrew woman, the eldest child of Yocheved and Amram. I love my family and will do anything to protect and save them.

When my mother came to talk to me, I could not read her expression. Her face was calm, but I was worried her news would not be good. Then she smiled and I was relieved. She gave me a hug and said: “You are going to be a big sister!” and I was so excited. When we found out the baby was a boy, my mother and I were terrified for him and for all of us. I told her I would do whatever I could to help her and I have kept that promise. I told my mother we needed to hide him as long as we could and figure out a plan.

One day, I was walking by the river and came up with an idea. I see the Pharaoh’s daughter bathe there every day. I told my mother that we should somehow get the baby to her. Every day for weeks I made sure she was there bathing, until one day I told my mother I had everything under control. She looked at me trustingly and handed my brother to me. I cradled him in my arms lovingly, hoping this would not be the last time, and I walked to the river. The reeds along the edge clung to my skirt and I struggled not to drop him. I held him tighter until I made it to where I left my basket. I put him in, kissed him on the head and then I looked into his eyes. He was so beautiful. When I looked into his eyes, I believed that he would survive and that someday he would help our people. “What if he is not saved,” I worried. “He must be,” I told myself. I needed to believe that Pharaoh’s daughter would come through.

I put the basket in the river and moved to another patch of reeds to see where it would go. I held my breath waiting for the Pharaoh’s daughter to appear, and again I worried she wouldn’t come.

Suddenly, there was a rustling in the reeds and there she was, walking into the river with her servants. I was so relieved. As she bathed I worried again, this time that she wouldn’t notice my brother floating by. Then I heard him laugh. She turned around. She looked confused and turned back to her bathing.

Tears started flowing down my face. I have failed. My brother will die.
Then I heard splashing. I looked through the reeds and Pharaoh’s daughter was running through the water to retrieve the basket. She took it in her arms, held it for what seemed like an eternity, and then handed it to her maidservant. I have succeeded!

I slid through the reeds back onto the shore and casually tried to bump into the maidservant. I knew someone would be needed to breastfeed my brother. I told the servant that my mother had just given birth to a girl and had milk to give. She handed my brother back to me and when I brought him home, my mother was filled with joy!

When the time came to give my brother back to the Pharaoh’s daughter, I said goodbye for the second time. At least now I know my brother is in good hands.

Batya’s Point of View

My name is Batya. Batya means “daughter of god”. My name wasn’t always Batya. God gave me my name because of the most important decision I made in my life. Here is my story:

One day as I walked into the river for my daily bath I heard a squeal. I thought it must be my imagination, or perhaps there was a mouse somewhere nearby. At the same time, because it was so quiet, I was sure I was hearing it. I got into the chilly water and I shivered. But as I bathed, the water began to warm and all of a sudden I heard a splash and another squeal. “I am the only one in the water,“ I told myself. I kept bathing until I heard a laugh. Then I was sure it was a voice. I turned around and saw there was a basket in the river. I approached it and looked inside. And sure enough there was a baby in it! So cute, all bundled up in his little basket. I looked into his eyes and I wondered why he was not crying. He was so calm. But where was his mother?

Then it hit me. “Oh, this baby boy is a HEBREW. No. I can’t save him. My father decreed the boys must die.” Then I looked into his eyes again. “I have to save him, I have to!” I cradled the basket in my arms and he stared at me and giggled again. I knew in my heart this baby was meant for me. “But what will my father think? What will he do if he finds out?” I walked over and handed the basket to my servant. “We must find a nurse maid,” I told her. “My baby must be hungry.” As my servant walked off I knew I had done the right thing.

Once my baby was out of sight, I knew I had to name him. I thought about what was special about him. I found him floating in the water. Hmmm. It was so special when I brought him out of the water. Ah! I will name him Moses because I drew him out of the water.

When the boy was returned to me, I knew I would have to confront my father. I will raise him as my own son, but I will make sure that one day he knows who he truly is, a Hebrew. “One day he will save his people,” I said to myself, “just as I have saved him!”

Artist’s Statement: The women of the Exodus, in the Torah, stand up for themselves, for their people and for their beliefs. There were many incredible women who made the Biblical Exodus from Egypt possible, among them Miriam, Moses’ older sister, and Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter. They confirm how much courage we have and how powerful women really are. When you think of strength you might think of physical strength. But there is even more strength in your mind and spirit. You get to decide what the right thing to do is. You get to decide to fight for it.

I have written midrashim (interpretations of Biblical stories) about each of these women to fill in missing pieces from the story told in the Torah. The Torah is written from the second-person perspective, so the stories reflect only one narrative. These midrashim offer a different perspective from two sides of the story.

The Torah is an interesting book to me because there are many ways to interpret it, and you can find meaning in it that makes sense to you. In these midrashim, I imagine what each woman might have been thinking and experiencing, and I give each of them the opportunity to tell her story in her own voice. This process has also helped me to expand my thinking about what they experienced and why they might have thought or acted the way they did, which made these stories from the Torah more relevant to me and to my life. What would I have done in these situations? What would you do in these situations?
Accompanying photo: “Murchison Falls, Nile River, Uganda”, © Rod Waddington licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.
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