In a musical rendition of the celebratory ‘high-five’ gesture, Parashah B’shallakh offers the ‘Song of the Sea’ following the safe crossing of the Sea of Reeds by the Israelites upon their departure from Egypt. I have always had a problem with these somewhat self-serving verses, and prefer not to read them during the morning service. Although I think I understand the need for them in the aftermath of horrific events in our history, still, the gloating tenor of them seems a bit much like schadenfreude. Moreover, I wonder: could the brief echoes of that song via the appearance of Moses’ sister Miriam and ‘all the women’ be just another patronizing plot device to drive the Exodus narrative forward? To be sure, unlike the cameo roles of other women in the Torah, it was a rare display of solidarity among them considering the often bitter rivalry and cattiness displayed by some of the other matriarchs. Nevertheless, because of that brevity and the body of literature she has since inspired, Miriam and her intelligent influence among the tribes has become a powerful role model for women through the generations. For this reason I’ve chosen to make her the focus of my illustrations for Parashah B’shallakh in Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate 2009) along with the prophet Elijah, her unlikely male counterpart whose appearance in legend and symbolic presence at Passover seder tables is traditional.
A detailed commentary on The Song of the Miriams details that appear throughout this post can be found on page 147 of the AfterImages section of my book. As always, I invite your thoughts and questions and look forward to a continuing conversation.
For previews and purchase information of Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) visit: http://bit.ly/g2D9Lm