Many women of the bible make their entrances by a well, and many commentators have noted the well as a feminine, womb-like symbol, a hidden source of life. The most famous well in Jewish lore is the Well of Miriam, the sister of Moses.
The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 20:1-2)
The Talmud explains that this sudden loss of water following Miriam’s death hints at her miraculous well that accompanied Children of Israel throughout their desert wanderings:
Rabbi Yossi said in the name of Rabbi Judah:
Three good leaders stood up for Isarel. They were: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Three good gifts were given by them, and these are: a well, a cloud, and manna. A well, by the merit of Miriam, pillar of cloud, by the merit of Aaron, manna, by the merit of Moses. When Miriam died, the well departed, as it is written, “and Miriam died there,” and right after it is written, “and the congregation had no water,” and it returned by the merit of the two of them. (Talmud Bavli Ta’anit 9a)
Legend has it that this well found its way to the Sea of Galilee where it is still visible:
If anyone ascends to the top of Mount Yeshimon he will see a kind of small sieve in the sea of Tiberias (lake Kinneret or Sea of Galilee]. This is the well of Miriam. R. Johanan b. Nuri says: Our Rabbis have calculated its position, which is directly opposite the middle gate of the ancient synagogue of Tiberias. [Midrash: Leviticus Rabbah 22:4]
Other tellings hold that Miriam’s well even wanders the diaspora, outside the land of Israel, suggesting that the potential for renewal and inspiration may appear at any time. Read a full account of the legend of Miriam’s well.
Experience a guided mediation on Miriam’s Well.
Beloved songwriter Debbie Friedman wrote an energetic, upbeat song about Miriam. The link will take you to the lyrics, which contains a link to a recording.
Featured Image: Miriam IMG 28071″ by Radbod Commandeur (1890 – 1955); photo by Deror avi – Own work. via Wikimedia Commons –