A warm welcome from Mosaic
Mosaic Liberal
Mosaic Reform
Catch up with our monthly magazine
Meet the Rabbis

29/30 April: Shemini shel Pesach

rabbipaulsmlShabbat comes in 8.06pm: goes out 9.15pm 

The following is an article by Masorti Rabbi Reuven Hammer (I edited it down) that I thought was important and wanted to share.

“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all of the women went out after her in dance with timbrels.  And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously (Exodus 15:20-21).

The Torah pays great homage to Miriam. She may be ‘Aaron’s sister,’ but she is also granted the title ‘the prophetess.’ Moses was the supreme prophet, but Aaron is not identified as a prophet.

It was only proper that at this moment of supreme celebration and joy, it is Miriam who concludes the festivities. After all, she played a pivotal role in the Exodus, watching by the Nile to see what would happen to her baby brother who was put adrift in a basket. She witnessed his rescue by Pharoah’s daughter and saw to it that Moses was given into the hands of his true mother. Without that, he would never have known he was a Hebrew. The prophet Micah presents her as one of the three sent by God to redeem Israel from the house of bondage, “Moses, Aaron and Miriam” (Micah 6:4).

Rabbinic tradition went even further and gave a reason for her being called a prophetess. It was Miriam who persuaded her parents not to refrain from having another child when Pharoah issued his decree to kill all the male infants, and it was Miriam who prophesied that this child would be the savior of the people Israel who would lead them to freedom. When the child was put into the basket on the Nile, Amram, the father, said to Miriam, “What has become of her prophecy now?!” but she still had faith and made it her business to watch and see what would happen and indeed played a pivotal role in the child’s future.

Although Judaism has traditionally been a largely patriarchal religion, from the beginning women have played a crucial role. In addition to Miriam there are the midwives who refused to carry out Pharaoh’s murderous plan, Yoheved who bore and hid her child, Pharaoh’s daughter who knowingly saved an Israelite boy, Tziporah, Moses’ wife who acted bravely when her husband’s life was in danger, and all the Israelite women who carried on the tradition.

In later times as well there were other women leaders of the people, Deborah, a judge and prophetess, Yael who slayed the enemy Sisra, Hulda, a prophetess who lived at the time of Jeremiah and was consulted by kings, to say nothing of Ruth and Esther.

Unfortunately these leadership roles disappeared in post-Biblical times. Now women have once again begun to play such a role. In my own Masorti Movement women have functioned as rabbis for several decades and have made an enormous contribution to Judaism as teachers, halakhic experts, scholars and religious leaders. We have been spiritually enriched by their work. The same is true of the Reform Movement and even within more modern and open Orthodoxy  where women are playing increasingly more important parts in religious leadership, regardless of what title they are given.

Miriam led the song because it teaches that the celebration was not complete without the added voice of the women. As a matter of fact they did even more than the men because they added musical instruments and the element of dance.

What was true then is true today. Our celebration, our religious life, is not complete without the addition of the voice of women and what they can contribute to Jewish worship and Jewish life. To the voice of Moses must be added the voice of Miriam.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

April 28, 2016