When Miriam was afflicted with Tza’raas - a spiritual disease with physical manifestations on the skin - she was required to remain outside the Jewish camp for one week. During that week, the Jewish people did not proceed on their journey. There were some 3 million people anxious to travel, but they had to wait – even without TSA - until Miriam was healed.
Rashi explains that this wait was the reward that G-d gave to Miriam. When Moshe was an infant, Yocheved - Moshe’s mother – could no longer hide her son from the Egyptians who were ordered to kill every Jewish baby. Yocheved put Moshe in a basket and then floated the basket in the Nile River. Miriam waited and watched to ensure the welfare of her brother. She stayed until the Pharaoh’s daughter picked Moshe from the river. So now 80 years later - the entire Jewish Nation would stand and wait for her.
Rabbi Yissachar Frand asks: why did Miriam receive this reward now – 80 years after the event? Why was this the appropriate time for the Jews to show their appreciation to Miriam?
In this week’s parsha – in the middle of the incident involving Miriam speaking Lashon Hara about Moshe - the Torah elaborates about Moshe, that his relationship with G-d was different than the relationship that any other prophet had with G-d. Rabbi Frand explains that now - when Miriam was stricken with the skin disease - was the proper time to show appreciation to her, because this was the time when the people were finally able to retroactively understand what her “small” action accomplished. She may have waited for a little baby floating in the Nile. At the time, everyone considered it to be a ‘nice act’ - a very small and seemingly inconsequential act. It was only many years later – over 80 years later, when the Jewish people saw all that Moshe did for them - that they could understand and truly appreciate that act of patience. Therefore, this was payback time.
While certain events in life are occurring, we often do not have an appreciation of their import and significance. When Israel built the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, nobody realized its significance until Israel rescued its hostages from there in 1976. When Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, it wasn’t until ten years later that the world appreciated that action.
Often we can look back decades later and say, “That is when it all began” or “That was the beginning of the end”. Years later, we can point back to a date and a time in history and say, “That was it! Every action has a reaction. Every action has a consequence – some for better and others for worse. We can never discount the possible ramifications of our behaviors. Our lives have purpose, our deeds are important. That is knowledge that can infuse meaning into any day.