motzei Shabbos: parashas Ki Seitzei 5781
“Remember [zachor] what the L-RD your G-d did to Miriam on the journey after you left Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 24:9, JPS 1985 Tanach
The Targum paraphrases, delineating the import of the commandment, “Be mindful that no one contemn his neighbor, lest he be smitten: remember that which the L-rd your G-d did to Miriam, who contemned Mosheh for that which was not in him, when she was smitten with leprosy, and you were delayed in the way when coming out of Mizraim” (Targum Jonathan, sefaria.org). Miriam had been critical of her brother Moshe; so, she was chastised with leprosy as a punishment for her lashon hara. This commandment to remember the event, is a stark reminder of the consequences of slander.
Moreover, this commandment is one of the six remembrances, required to recollect every day. Traditionally this is done by reading the list of six remembrances after the morning prayers. So, as one of the six narratives from the Torah that are significant enough to be recalled every day, is what H’Shem “did to Miriam on the journey.” Therefore, the gravity of this aveirah (sin) is serious enough for the historical event to be designated as something to recall everyday. The Ramban explains, “meaning that you mention it always in the utterance of words” (sefaria.org).
Is not this the path to memorization? In the words of King David, “Thy word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11, JPS 1917 Tanach). And this is the entire intent – to place these words upon our heart, inasmuch that in Biblical language, the heart represents the mind. We are to remember, if not actually memorize, not only the six remembrances: rather, especially those words from the pasukim (verses) that will guide our lives in the right direction, away from sin.