And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married… And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them… behold, Miriam became leprous… And the Lord said… let [Miriam] be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.
Numbers 12:1-14 (excerpts)
So there's this LDS feminist group that had a competition last year to, essentially, write scripture fanfic. Obviously I was going to enter this.
I've been kind of obsessed with Miriam and the other women of the Exodus since writing a Moses und Aron fic for seekingferret several years back. And he graciously allowed me to, essentially, remix that fic. Of course, the thing he probably knew and that I'd forgotten was how much the engaging with Schoenberg was integral to everything about it, and ripping all the Schoenberg out left… well, there is one big idea that I retained, and one or two paragraphs near the end that are very similar, but that's about it. Even the characters all came out totally different. (Much more cheerful, naturally, but I was surprised at how fundamentally different they became.)
Partially this is because the fic turned out to be my alternate interpretation of Numbers 12, which is an interesting and (for me) challenging text. The most obvious explanation (and the one I've heard at church before) is that it's a tale about Miriam challenging Moses' authority, and possibly being catty about his wife while she's at it (although as part of my research for ferret's fic I read that there are Jewish interpretations that reject this notion(*)) and getting schooled by God for it. Miriam's a really fascinating figure in general (gosh, all the Exodus women are, with all these tantalizing details that never get totally filled in) and there are ways of looking at her where this is a totally in-character thing for her to do, but that wasn't what I was interested in.
Also, it turns out that apparently I have real problems with the idea of sickness being a punishment from God
Also also, I think that if Moses is really all that, he and Zipporah should, honestly, be able to talk things out themselves. It's not like Zipporah is afraid to tell Moses exactly what she thinks (see Ex 4:25).
"Wilderness" was written specifically for a Jewish recipient, and I tried to reflect that in the fic as much as I could in detail, in being conversant with the midrashim, etc. (I'm sure I made mistakes, but I did try very hard.) "Hazeroth" was written for an LDS audience, and so the feel, various details, and focus points are rather different. For example, there's a bit of commentary on the cultural vs. doctrinal role of a prophet, which is very much an LDS-centric concern. (I'm not even sure those words make sense in a Jewish context.) The title comes from the hymn "As Sisters in Zion," which LDS women sing often enough that any woman who has been a member longer than a couple of years probably has it memorized.
As sisters in Zion, we'll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek.
We'll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.
Anyway, I didn't win, but I did get a sort of honorable-mention thingie, and now I've posted it.
Shout-out to sprocket, who is amazing and was incredibly patient with not just beta work but also, for this one, much alpha advice in tearing apart the structure, talking me through what didn't work, and reassembling the story in different configurations.
(*) Here, Miriam is on Zipporah's side, and speaking out against her brother for no longer having sex with Zipporah. (**) I think this is an awesome interpretation. I didn't follow it in the fic, although it definitely informed my reading of her character. Miriam being really super awesome but also a bit of an enmeshed control freak is totally supported by canon!
(**) From this site: "Since modesty is appropriate for the relations between a man and his wife, how did Miriam learn of Moses’s abstinence? According to one tradition, Miriam saw that Zipporah no longer adorned herself with women’s jewelry, and she asked her: 'Why have you stopped wearing women’s ornaments?' Zipporah answered: 'Your brother no longer cares about this.' Thus Miriam learned that Moses had abstained from intercourse (Sifrei on Numbers 12)." How awesome is this?!