Miriam the Prophet's Torah

                                         Miriam the Prophet's Torah         by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The Qur'an specifically states that Aaron, the brother of Moses, was a Prophet/Messenger (Qur'an 23:45) and together with Moses received the Furqan (a revelation). The Torah (Exodus 15:20) specifically states that Miriam the sister of Moses was a Prophet. So why is the Torah always just referred to as 'the Torah of Moses'?

Indeed, both Aaron and Miriam themselves state that God has spoken through them. Numbers 12:2 quotes Miriam and Aaron as saying,”Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” The Torah (Numbers 11:27) additionally states that one time the seventy elders of Israel also became prophets because God “Drew upon the spirit that was on Moses and placed it on the seventy elders. When the spirit rested upon them they prophesied, but they (the whole seventy) did not continue (to do so).” (Numbers 11:17 &25) Yet two of the seventy, Eldad and Medad, did continue to have prophetic experiences for “the spirit rested upon them” (Numbers 11:26-7) and Joshua tried to get Moses to restrain them. Moses refused saying, “Would that all the Lord's people were Prophets” (Numbers 11: 27-29) So why are these four people, two lay leaders, a priest and a woman, not remembered as prophets.

The simplest answer is that Moses was the central figure in four of the five books of the Torah. Thus, as the generations passed, Moses was thought of as the one who was responsible for the entire Torah.

Or perhaps the prophetic contribution of these four prophets was forgotten because we do not know exactly what they said or what they wrote. For example, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 17a) states that Eldad and Medad revealed that Joshua would lead Israel into Canaan after Moses died. Maybe that is why in the next verse Joshua modestly urges Moses to restrain them. Rabbi Nahman states they prophesied about the final battle of Gog and Magog (who also have alliterative names). The same Talmud passage also claims that Eldad and Medad continued to prophesy until the day of their death. They might have revealed (and wrote) the last 8 verses of Deuteronomy, which follow the death of Moses. But elsewhere the Talmud (Bava Batra 14b) claims that Joshua wrote these verses. Most likely they revealed some of the Oral Torah, or they might have been the source for the early pre-Noah chapters of Genesis (just as Gog and Magog precede the advent of the Messianic Age). These statements show that some Talmudic Sages disagreed with the view that Moses wrote the entire Torah all by himself.

Since the Torah herself asserts that Miriam was a prophet (Exodus 15:20) and Numbers 12:2 quotes Miriam and Aaron saying,”Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” the question remains; What was Aaron's Torah and what was Miriam’s Torah? I think Miriam wrote down the narrative oral Torah from the time of Abraham and Sarah to the generation of Joseph's children: i. e. from Genesis 12 through Genesis 50, while Moses was in Midian. Midrash Exodus Rabbah 5:18 and Tanhuma Va’era 6 state that the Israelite slaves in Egypt “possessed scrolls which they read”. This refers to the oral Torah that Miriam the prophet wrote down for them. Miriam also wrote the first 15 chapters of Exodus from “these are the names” to the song she and all the Jewish woman sang when Israel safely crossed the Sea of Reeds. As the Torah states, “Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and with all the women following her, dancing with tambourines; Miriam sang this refrain: Sing to the Lord…” (Exodus 15:21). Miriam wrote this narrative at Marah where “the Lord placed statute and judgement” on the Jewish people to get them ready for the covenant at Sinai. The statute (Khok) refers to Leviticus 18:30-19:37. It was given to Moses and originally was part of the Book of the Covenant-Exodus 20:1-24:7. The judgement (Mishpat) refers to Exodus 1-15 where the judgements of God over the Egyptians are mentioned three times 6:6, 7:4, and 12:12.

Miriam the prophet is referred to in Exodus 15:21 as Aaron’s sister because both Miriam and Aaron were prophets. What was the Torah of Aaron? All materials relating to performing the priestly rituals and services, the vestments of the priests, the design of the Tent of Assembly and its accruements, and the rules and rituals concerning ritual pollution are Aaron’s Torah. Thus Numbers 19:1-2 states “God spoke to Moses and to Aaron, ‘This is the Torah/law God commanded’”. However, usually Aaron’s humility led him to give preference and credit to Moses. So in Leviticus 6:1-2 “God spoke to Moses- command Aaron and his sons: This is the Torah of the burnt offering.” And Leviticus 7:37 “This is the Torah of the burnt offering”.

The Divine teachings/Torah of Prophet Miriam and Prophet Aaron, were included together in our current Torah with the Torah of Prophet Moses, by Ezra the scribe. Of course, God inspired all the prophets, each in his or her own way. Prophet Moses taught Mitsvot (the Book of the Covenant-Exodus 20:1-24:7, Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy) to the men. Prophet Aaron taught cult rules to the Levites and Kohanim/priests. Prophet Miriam taught sacred history Torah narrative to all the men, women and children of Israel. Eldad and Medad taught the details of genealogy, demographics (census reports), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14), and the death of Moses. Ezra the priest and scribe combined all their scrolls into one large scroll (except for the lost Wars of the Lord scroll) into one large scroll as we have it today. In the Talmud (Gitten 60a) Rabbi Johanan taught that Rabbi Bana’ah said, “the Torah was given scroll by scroll”.

When Ezra combined the various scrolls into our current one big Torah, he replaced the old Hebrew script with Aramaic square script, and directed that a portion of the Torah be read on each Shabbat. Also, Ezra marked with dots, ten words or letters that he was not sure had a place in the Torah and to this day all Torahs have Ezra’s marks on them. Due to all this he was viewed as second Moses; “Torah would be given to Israel through Ezra if Moses hadn’t preceded him.” (Sanhedrin 21b) Ezra the priest included so much of Aaron’s Torah that the Torah of Moses is as Rabbi Johanan says, “the smaller part in the written Torah.” (Gittin 60b) But the Mitsvot in Sefer HaBrit, the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:1 to 23:33 or 24:8) and the Mitsvot in the Book of Deuteronomy (1:1 to 31:9 or 31:26) although they take up less than half the entire Torah are still the most important part.