“His sister [Miriam] stationed herself at a distance to know what would be done with him [Moshe.]” (Shemos 2:4)
Fine. Big deal. The older sister watched and waited to see what would become of her baby brother’s treacherous journey down the Nile. Wouldn’t you do the same? Why does the Torah bother to include this seemingly irrelevant detail in its depiction of Moshe’s improbable survival?
Taking it one step further, the Talmud (Sotah 12b-13a) extols Miriam’s “waiting” and anticipation as an instance of Divine “measure for measure.” For on account of Miriam’s conduct at the Nile, all of K’lal Y’srael would (generations later) “wait” for Miriam before resuming their odyssey through the Wilderness. Again, the question is readily apparent, what is so significant about Miriam’s seemingly insignificant decision to “wait” to see what would befall her baby brother?
As the pace of life whirls on at increasingly-dizzying speed, the notion of waiting (for anything or anyone) becomes increasingly exacerbating. There’s simply way too much for us get done in order to flitter away our precious time with “waiting.”
The antithesis of productivity, Dr. Seuss described “The Waiting Place” as “a most useless place……for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or the waiting around for a Yes or No … Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break … Everyone is just waiting.”
This sentiment has been echoed by seemingly everyone from Seinfeld (“I hate the waiting room. Because it’s called the waiting room, there’s no chance of not waiting. It’s built, designed, and intended for waiting. Why would they take you right away when they’ve got this room all set up?”) to Homer Simpson (who begrudgingly lamented the mandatory “waiting period” before purchasing a firearm because “I’m angry now!”) to Tom Petty (“You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part).
Waiting has never been fun. Today it ranks even higher on our list of frustrations.
In contrast to traffic on the Van Wyck, Miriam’s “wait-by-the-Nile” wasn’t merely passive down-time waiting for life to unfold. To the contrary, Rav Eliyashav zt’l explains (Sotah 11A) that Miriam’s bitachon in Hashem did not waiver one iota thus enabling her to “wait” with the palpable anticipation that a Divinely-ordained “exit strategy” would soon present itself. Despite all the odds, Miriam harbored an optimistic outlook and a heart brimming with anticipation. Buoyed by her unflappable bitachon, Miriam never budged from her staunch conviction that (as unlikely as it may seem), Hashem was indeed orchestrating His Divine Plan for Moshe (in particular) and the Am Yisrael (en masse).
Perhaps this is why the Torah “bothers” to commemorate Miriam’s seemingly insignificant “waiting” by the riverside. Perhaps this is why, years later, the entire Am Yisrael would reciprocate and “wait” for Miriam. Far from being a “most useless place,” the waiting of a maiman – of a Yid who feels “no reason to despair when we see the situation deteriorating ” – presents a rare and precious opportunity to find Hashem in our daily lives. (Living Emunah, p.66).
When we know He is part of the unfolding drama of life, we can eagerly and pro-actively “wait” for the next Act rather than passively retreat to the “Waiting Place.”