What Ever Happened to Miriam?

Miriam is the sister of Moses. She is called a Prophet in Torah and associated with extraordinary events -- leading the dance of triumph at the Red Sea, for example. But in the entire Torah Miriam appears only three times. There is a powerful midrashic tradition around her, going all the way back to the Babylonian exile, and recently she has been taken up by feminists as a major inspiration. Miriam's well is the best known tradition, associating her with water, and now many include a cup for Miriam at Seders along with the one for Elijah. The title is a question asked by the poet Alicia Ostriker, and the story is my response. The Miriam described here is, as the tradition demands, based on hints in Torah, though I know of no precedent for my imaginings. The speaker is entirely fanciful, but I have given him the name Hur, which appears a couple of times in the Exodus story. At readings of this piece, I have been attacked for 'dragging contemporary issues into Torah.' In response I cite as what the midrashists call proof text, the injunction against 'a man lying with a man as with a woman' in Leviticus. If homosexuality did not exist in Torah times, why the injunction against it? "Whatever Happened to Miriam" will appear in an anthology being edited by Enid Dame (Jason Aronson Press) What Ever Happened to Miriam? All those years, I never had the slightest idea she was his sister. When she first came into the studio, she was this gorgeous kid. Maybe 8, 9 years old. Pharaoh's daughter brought her in; said she found her down by the bulrushes or something. But Pharaoh's daughter was right to make her a dancer, because Miriam had fire and grace, and a body the Egyptians just love __ wide shoulders, tiny waist and turnout like you would not believe. I wasn't much older, but I was already a star. My parents were both famous court dancers, so the Egyptians mated them, and I was the product. So they put Miriam with me, and we were fabulous. For eighteen years we danced for Pharaoh and the court, including Moses, thank you very much. They even tried to mate us, but you know me with women. Then my knees went, so they put Miriam with a different partner and I was retired. I should have become a court choreographer or at least a teacher, but they told me what they tell all of us: "You Hebrews have great bodies and you're so instinctual, but somehow as a race, you just lack whatever it is that makes for leadership." I was terrified that they would just throw me in a cage with their pet panther and watch him gorge on me __ they love watching dancers writhe in terror and agony. They think it's so graceful and tragic. So, I started helping around the place, and turned myself into a house slave, but a fabulous house slave. I could follow orders to the hieroglyph! I mean, before they even knew they wanted it, I had it done.... I became Ak_Hot's personal slave __ yes, Ak_Hot, the chief of Pharaoh's secret police. What a queen! I loved it. I had the best of everything. So, when we got lost in the desert, I was definitely one of the ones who wanted to go back to the good old fleshpots of Egypt, especially after what happened to me and Miriam at the Red Sea. You didn't know about that? Well, I have to go back a little ways before. I know, I know I don't have to tell you about Moses and Aaron and the plagues .... Everyone knows about that. So, I'll just go back to when we arrived at the Red Sea, on the Egyptian side, and I'm carrying all this gold that I

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