14.11. The Women’s Song (15:20-21)

 (20) 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.

(21) And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.

(20) Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister: The Torah emphasizes that Miriam is Aaron’ sister, not Moses’ sister, because Aaron and Miriam had been active as prophets even in Egypt. Also, Miriam’s prophetic gift was on the level of Aaron’s prophecy, but not on Moses’ level.

Took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels: Two points distinguish this description of the women’s song from the general Song of the Sea that preceded it, as sung by Moses and all of Israel: The women sing while dancing (round dances), and they sing with musical instruments (timbrels) in their hands.

All the women went out after her in dance with timbrels: Although the Jews left Egypt “hurriedly” and without an abundance of supplies, the women had taken their musical instruments with them, because Jewish life is impossible without music.

(21) And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea: The women’s song repeats the entire men’s song that they have just heard (although the Torah quotes only the women’s repetition of the first verse, the whole song is meant). But the women’s song is different in that it includes dancing and musical accompaniment. A song (and this song in particular) is a metaphor for life itself. Thus, after receiving from the men a significant contribution toward an understanding of the world – the text of the song the women give it its correct musical and dance form, thus making the song complete.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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