I have seen sports people express emotion – but this was different.
I didn’t see the match, I was following on the BBC website, but I soon realised this was no normal contest. For a start the match finished at 4:05am having taken almost 6 hours. However, the real story was Andy Murray. Here is a man who was number one in the world for a time, battling for the top with three other greats. His pinnacle was the year 2016 where he won Wimbledon, his second Olympic Gold and became the world number one. Roll on 2017!
However then began his struggle with injuries, form and him tumbling down the rankings. Eventually he had to have hip surgery and in 2019, he tearfully considered if he would have to retire, the pain was so great. Yet even at his lowest point he refused to give up, he had a second hip operation – he now has a metal hip and began to play again.
He lost regularly, entered tournaments as a wild card, played in places he never would have when he was a top four player – yet he played and played. He believed he could become a great player again. Could win on the biggest stage. He would not give up.
And then came this week, the Australian Open, he was up against one of the top players in the world, he was two sets up, lost the next two, yet somehow he managed to get over the line in the 5th set. The tennis world was stunned – he had achieved. Incredible.
Then came yesterday, barely 48 hours after his marathon, he played again. He was two sets down and a break down, yet once again, he managed to overcome and while most of Australia was fast asleep, he moved into the third round.
Now we can understand his roar.
This was not simply a roar of a celebration of a win, this was a realisation of how far he had come, how all the work, all the pain, all the self-belief – had been worth it. All those losses, all those disappointments, they were necessary to get to this point. It is hard to imagine what was going through his mind, but that roar, that was triumph over adversity.
His heroics on the tennis court inspired me to think of another hero, far more important and far more long lasting than any sporting occasion – and we are reading about her at the moment.
In a few weeks in the Parsha we won’t hear a collective roar, but a collective song. In Va’era the redemption from Egypt is beginning, but until we cross the Yam Suf, we will not be able to fully express our joy and thanks.
The last person to express thanks on that day is Miriam:
Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam called out to them, Sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea. (Shemot 15)
Why was this not with the general Az Yashir?
Why her own song?
The Gemara gives us a clue and asks on these pesukim above, two important questions. Why introduce her as prophetess and why as sister of Aaron?
The answer to both questions is a story that happened before Moshe was born, so she only had Aaron!
As the Gemara says:
The verse states: “And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took for a wife a daughter of Levi” (Exodus 2:1). The Gemara asks: To where did he go? Rav Yehuda bar Zevina says: He went according to the advice of his daughter Miriam….
Miriam, said to him: Father, your decree is more harsh for the Jewish people than that of Pharaoh, as Pharaoh decreed only with regard to the males, but you decreed both on the males and on the females….
Amram accepted his daughter’s words and arose and remarried, his wife, and all others who saw this followed his example and arose and brought back their wives. (Sotah 12b)
And then before Moshe was born, Miriam would tell everyone.
In the future, my mother will give birth to a son who will save the Jewish people. And once Moses was born, the entire house was filled with light. Her father arose and kissed her on her head. He said to her: My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled. And once they put him into the river, her father arose and hit her on her head. He said to her: My daughter, where is your prophecy? And this is as it is written: “And his sister stood afar, to know what would be done to him” (Shemot 2:4), i.e., to know what will be the ultimate resolution of her prophecy. (Sotah 13a)
Her parents weren’t sure, but then Moshe was born in such a special way, they believed her. However, when the tide turned. They weren’t so sure anymore. Yet Miriam didn’t give up, she still believed even when her brother was floating in the Nile.
And then bad turned to worse as Pharaoh’s daughter arrived, yet once again Miriam came to the rescue.
She opened [it], and she saw him the child, and behold, he was a weeping lad, and she had compassion on him, and she said, “This is
of the children of the Hebrews.” His sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call for you a wet nurse from the Hebrew women, so that she shall nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go!” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. (Shemot 2:6-8)
The rest as they say is history. Clearly Miriam became the architect of Moshe’s salvation, she was the unlikely instrument through which her own prophecy was realised!!!
So, many years later at the sea, Miriam reflects on this all, and it is overwhelming. The Bnei Yisrael watch the salvation at the sea, they have faith, just like she did all those years ago at a smaller body of water. She sees the bigger picture, she knows about all the effort, the work, the desire, the miracles – Hashem has finally fulfilled her prophecy.
So, when it finally happened, she sang, how could she not.
Our lives today are a mixture of both of these people, ancient and modern. We, like Andy Murray, need to persevere in our physical lives, to achieve, to create and to build, to triumph over adversity but we must always focus on the bigger picture, the spiritual journey we are also all part of, a journey that began in Mitzraim with a scared young girl questioning her father and which led, with Hashem’s guidance to the redemption from Egypt.
Miriam sang a song then.
We must work today to make sure that soon, the lion of Yehudah can roar, bimheriah beyamenu.