“Then Miriam the prophet­ess, Aaron’s sis­ter, took a tim­brel in her hand, and all the women went out af­ter her in dance with tim­brels” Ex­o­dus 15:20

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

THIS is clearly Miriam’s mo­ment! It is the first time in the To­rah Miriam is re­ferred to as “a prophet­ess” and named in her own right, not as ad­junct to her fam­ily mem­bers.

Her song of praise that ac­com­pa­nies the dance be­gins con­fi­dently and as­sertively with the tri­umphal “Sing to God!” Al­though her song is shorter than Moses’s, its en­ergy and con­fi­dence is up­lift­ing. Whereas Moses be­gins with a slight hes­i­ta­tion, “So, they sang to God”, Miriam’s out­stand­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic here is her sure­ness: “Sing to the Lord, for He has tri­umphed glo­ri­ously; horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.”

Rashi ex­tends her lack of doubt in the suc­cess­ful out­come of the Ex­o­dus to the Is­raelite women in gen­eral: “the righ­teous women of that gen­er­a­tion were con­fi­dent that God would do mir­a­cles for them; so they brought drums with them from Egypt”.

Yet the Talmud de­scribes Miriam merely as “the sis­ter of Aaron”. Rabbi Nach­man ex­plains this was be­cause when she proph­e­sised that her par­ents would give birth to a re­deemer of Is­rael, she was then only the sis­ter of Aaron. When Moses was born — and “the house was filled with light”— her fa­ther kissed her head ap­prov­ingly. But later, when Moses was to be thrown in the Nile, her fa­ther tapped her head and re­proved her: “Where is your prophecy, my daugh­ter?”

Rachel Elior, the con­tem­po­rary ex­pert on mys­ti­cism, com­ments that the Talmud de­motes Miriam’s de­fin­i­tive prophetic mo­ment to a fa­mil­ial, private in­ci­dent where she is both praised and up­braided by her fa­ther as a lit­tle girl, rather than as the adult hero­ine who raises her cel­e­bra­tory voice in the pub­lic arena.

Could it be that the Tal­mu­dic ban on women’s singing in front of men may have been in­flu­enced by rab­bini­cal tra­di­tion be­ing more com­fort­able with the for­mer pic­ture? MAU­REEN KENDLER

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