Her Turn: Beshallach 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How can our society best elevate women into prominence? How have recent events caused us to rethink whether we have properly given women an equal voice in greater conversation?

While the Exodus from Egypt is dominated so much by actions or inactions on the part of men, we get a glimpse of what one woman has to offer after the Israelites cross the Red Sea:

The Pitch: “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. And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.” – Exodus 15:20-21

Swing #1: “Miriam the prophetess so inspired the other women with her praises of the Holy One, blessed be He, that they all followed her and did likewise.” – Rimzei D’Hokhmoso

Swing #2: “A woman! There’s a woman! For the first time in ages a living, breathing female appears. Moses’s sister ‘Miriam the prophetess’ leads the celebratory singing and dancing when the Israelites cross the sea. Thank goodness for a woman … who’s not merely a wife to be mentioned in passing or a daughter tacked onto the end of a long list of sons.” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #3: “Music, or a specific ritual sound, is sometimes represented in a negative way in the biblical record … [but] the combination of dance and song or chant also appears in more-positive contexts, as can be seen in the song of Miriam after the miraculous delivery of Israel by YHWH’s mighty hand. Interestingly, the Hebrew Bible employs the verb ‘ana, ‘answer,’ again in Exodus 15:21, where it may suggest some type of responsive or antiphonal singing.” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators explain that Miriam is a leader, not just an individual with talent? What does it say about Miriam that this account, brief though it is, makes its way into the biblical canon? How do we best identify the other Miriams in our world?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Services this Saturday morning will be special; on COSY Shabbat, we’ll get a glimpse of what makes USY — and our USYers — so special. And, at Kiddush, we’ll enjoy a taste of the seven species of Israel in anticipation for Tu Bishvat. You’ll want to get to synagogue early; the closer to 9:30AM that you can be here, the more you’ll be able to experience.

The Big Inning at the End: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this week, and all are deserving. I look forward to the day voters will come to their senses and allow Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to join them.

Shabbat Shalom!