[Jewish parents,] choosing a name is a big deal. A person’s name is not a mere label; it expresses the essence of its bearer. The letters that make up your name, its sound and its meaning are descriptions of your soul. Only a prophet has the vision and foresight to know which name fits the soul of your child.
You are that prophet. ~ chabad.org
I didn’t want to tell anyone, but quiet miracles happened throughout my pregnancy that we marveled at.
I had become pregnant in the winter. I didn’t know what to tell the neighbors about why the flowers around our house kept blooming and continued to bloom out of season. “Like me,” I would chuckle to my husband.
I didn’t tell them flowers were also all over the house every morning. “Like hidden manna,” he said.
One morning he even found his walking staff blooming with lilies.
“Who would believe it?”
“It’s budding like the staff of Aaron that was laid in the Arc of the Covenant,” I said.
Kindly family and friends came to help me with my chores and were surprised to find everything done. How could I tell them I had no idea how it happened? The Lord had mercy on me. Perhaps it was the angels sent to help a pregnant old woman! Or perhaps it was Mother Sarah herself, who had a son in her old age.
“I’ve never seen anything like this!” I often thought.
The pregnancy itself was a miracle. I never expected to be able to conceive at my age, years past my time, when we had given up long before. We talked about this with wonder every day as my body changed in all the ways I had seen happen with other women, but never to me. Every day, I woke up thinking, “It’s true!”
We worried about my health, worried whether I would be able to nurse the baby. But I had prayed for this baby, and the Lord gave her to me, even announcing her coming to me with a holy vision. Surely He would provide milk from me to nurse her.
As I grew, we prayed more about her name. We knew she should be named for a relative, and that we should give her a name of one of the Mothers of Israel. At first I was thinking of Mother Sarah. Or maybe Deborah, Judith or Queen Esther, women who saved the Jewish people by their courage and trust in God.
But the name that kept coming up for both of us was Miriam. * So many girls were named Miriam. There were several relatives to choose from with that name. It was an ancient name that reminded us of our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It meant so many things. It could mean “bitter.” It could mean, “myrrh” which we used for a healing balm or as an incense. It could mean, “love.”
We knew Miriam was the right name when we talked about it. The Prophetess Miriam. What was God telling us about our child? “Hannah,” ** my husband would say, “we must be living at a very special time, truly.”
I had the song of Moses and Miriam committed to heart, as did my husband, Joachim. Really, we couldn’t get it out of our heads. Holding hands we sang it in the darkness before we drifted off to sleep, the song of our deliverance through the Red Sea. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord compelled us.
The naming of a Jewish daughter is a most profound spiritual moment. The naming ceremony is linked to the public reading of the Torah. During the Torah reading, a special “Mi Sheberach” blessing is said. The blessing begins with a prayer for the mother’s health. It continues with the giving of the baby’s name — and a prayer that this new Jewish daughter should grow to be a wise and understanding Jewish woman of goodness and greatness.~ Rabbi Shraga Simmons
On her naming day, two weeks after her birth, I woke to find rose petals all over our sleeping mat, all over our baby daughter. I had only seen roses a few times, at the homes of the more well to do. I always thought they were beautiful, but I never knew they could smell that wonderful! The whole house was filled with their perfume. I had to sweep them up before company came for the party later.“I am the rose of Sharon,” I thought, “And the Lily of the Valley.” I hid the petals in the one chest we had in the house. I could not hide the deep, sweet scent of the colorful rose petals. Like an oil poured out, the smell hung richly in every part of our home. People asked, “What is that?” but I couldn’t say.
I stared at Miriam for such a long time that morning on the day of the ceremony. She lay asleep in the crook of her father’s arm. I caressed her smooth and lovely skin the color of tea with milk in it, and brushed back her dark curls so sweet against a tiny, perfect face… was she really mine? I could scarcely believe it.
“You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride,” whispered itself in my soul. Was that God’s voice? Was He speaking to her?
What would this girl be? Joachim and I wondered that every day.
After a child is born, the father is given the honor of an aliyah (an opportunity to bless the reading of the Torah) in synagogue at the next opportunity. At that time, a blessing is recited for the health of the mother and the child. If the child is a girl, she is named at that time. ~jewfaq.org
I held little Miriam in my arms in the Temple with the other women. When her father stood up to read, his baby daughter’s soft eyes opened wide as if she heard and understood every word.
I trembled, not knowing why.
I knew what Joachim would read, and he did not surprise me.
And Miriam called to them:
Sing to God…”
We smiled at each other over the people’s heads.
I looked down into those deep, wise eyes of my daughter, and my child looked back at me with such depth and understanding, I felt our souls had touched.
She was telling me something I could only understand by faith.
I touched her flushed baby cheek. I knew one day she would save our people. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know when. But she would save our people. God would save our people, and she would have a hand in it. She was telling me who she was. But she was still a mystery to me.
For years people would talk about the white doves that flew through the Temple at the moment of her naming. We all knew it was a sign from God. But we didn’t know what the sign could mean.
I just held her close to me.
I held her close to me.
- Miriam (1400-1274 B.C.) A prophetess, daughter of Amram and Jochebed, older sister of Aaron and Moses. After the Splitting of the Sea she led the women in song and dance. In her merit the Israelites were miraculously provided with water in the desert. The Talmud identifies her with the midwife Puah, who practiced midwifery in Egypt together with Shifrah (Jochebed), and defied Pharaoh’s orders to kill Israelite babies. Miriam is a common Jewish name. Miriam, in English, would be “Mary,” of course.
- * We call the mother of our Lady, “Anne,” but in Hebrew it would be “Hannah.”