B’shalach

 B’shalach

In this week’s B’shalach, the long-awaited redemption of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery takes place in all its resounding glory.

The Egyptians, who relentlessly pursue the Israelites, ultimately drown in the sea and the inspired Moses, leads the people in majestic song, praising God for redeeming His people.

As soon as Moses concludes his song of tribute to the Al-mighty God, the Torah, in Exodus 15:20, reports, וַתִּקַּח מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן אֶת הַתֹּף בְּיָדָהּ, וַתֵּצֶאןָ כָל הַנָּשִׁים אַחֲרֶיהָ בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלֹת Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took her drum in her hand and all the women went forth after her with drums and with dances. Miriam’s immortal words of song are recorded in Exodus 15:21, וַתַּעַן לָהֶם מִרְיָם,  שִׁירוּ לַהשׁם כִּי גָאֹה גָּאָה, סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם , Miriam spoke up to them saying, “Sing to the Lord for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled a horse with its rider into the sea.”

While the song that Moses sang at the sea is 19 verses in length, Miriam’s song consists of only a single verse.

Our rabbis regard the brevity of Miriam’s song as a sign that the women were far more spiritual than the men.

The Talmud, in Sotah 11b, teaches, “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, were the Children of Israel redeemed from Egypt.” The women never lost their faith during the challenging years of slavery and oppression. Throughout the years of hardship, the women had much greater faith than the men that there would be an eventual redemption.

In stark contrast, the women always had faith in Miriam, the prophetess, even though she did not perform miracles like Moses. That is why the women were not seduced by the Golden Calf, knowing that even without Miriam, other leaders and prophets could emerge to effectively lead the people. In fact, Miriam is identified here as the sister of Aaron rather than the sister of Moses to underscore that her power of prophecy preceded Moses. According to tradition it was Miriam who prophesied that a redeemer would come to Israel and it was she who encouraged her father, Amram to reunite with her mother, Yocheved. It was due to her intervention that Moses was born.

The Torah clearly states (Deuteronomy 34:10), וְלֹא קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמֹשֶׁה , that no prophet has ever risen or will ever arise, who will be as great as Moses. But, it cannot be denied that the special wisdom with which God endowed Miriam had a more profound impact on the women, than the impact that Moses had on the men.

If we truly hope to maintain our exalted spiritual status, it is the intuitive spirituality reflected in Miriam that our people must learn to value, and attempt to replicate in our own lives.

Shabbat Shalom