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Shirat haYam

April 17, 2022

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Shirat haYam 5782

Without a doubt this is a special Friday.

In Israel it is decidedly the last day of Passover, of a Passover that was characterized by extreme tension, which also kept those of us who live with Israel in suspense. A Passover of attacks or consequences for attacks.

In communities outside of Israel, for those who admit that the 8th day (Yom Tov sheni shel galuiot in general for all holidays) is anachronistic, Passover ends tonight, with the arrival of Shabbat. For those of us who are still not sure we want to break that tradition of the 8th day, we seek something intermediary respecting the 8th day and understanding that "unnecessary" anachronism in times of accuracy and temporal precision.

But here and there this week we also celebrate the crossing of the Red Sea, Yam Suf or Sea of Reeds, and we’ve read on the morning of the 7th day of Passover Shirat haYam, one of the most beautiful poems in the Torah—The Song of the Sea.

Shirat haYam is a chant that we include in our daily morning prayer, in recognition of one of the most impressive miracles that the Kadosh Baruch Hu performed for the People of Israel. But really the content of this poem goes far beyond thanking or praising the Creator.

The verses after Shirat Hayam are called Shirat Miriam, Canticle of Miryam. They are, strictly speaking, just a chorus of the first verse of Shirat Hayam preceded by an introduction.

Miryam, the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the tambourine in her hand and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Miryam sang for them:

"Sing a song to the Lord, for He has manifested His glorious triumph to the horse and his rider He cast into the sea" (Exodus 15:20-21)."

This is all the text tells us about Mirטam's song. Whether it was longer, whether it was a repetition of the Shirah or Moshe's Prayer we don't know.

The fact that the Torah brings us the song in a female voice allows us to interpret that Moshe's leadership was not enough; Miriam's leadership at his side was necessary.

Miryam takes the tambourine in her hand, the same one that accompanies her on her way to becoming a leader, a leader who, through music and joy, exercises a leadership that is very close to the people, to her people.

Moses begins his prayer-song in the first person “Ashirah”—“I will sing”. Moshe is a distant leader, he sings for the people and they respond as if in an echo. Moshe's style of leadership is one that takes the lead and wants his actions to be emulated.

Miriam's song is different in its form and in its content. Miryam addresses women, creates a connection and an interaction with them. In her song, “Shiru”—“(let’s) sing to the Lord”, she simply encourages each one of the women to find their unique song and the special abilities that lie within it.

Miryam's style, in keeping with her overall personality, is to guide by drawing people into action. She is a facilitator who does not put her own interests before what she sensibly perceives that the people need. Her ways do not threaten, do not dictate; they invite, they encourage.

In response, the biblical account tells us that when she fell ill with tzaraat due to the slander exerted towards Moshe or "the Kushite woman", perhaps... the people, instead of leaving her confined and continuing on their way, as was prescribed to do in case of suffering from this strange disease, chose to wait for her cure and continue the path with her, once they were able to receive her again in their womb.

Music is a language beyond words and divisions and the experience of singing together, with instrumental accompaniment, increases the strength of the event. Music is a refuge in difficult times and an expression of joy in moments of celebration.

May we always choose and allow ourselves to be guided by leaders, women and men, who, like Miriam, take a drum, a tambourine and begin to sway, dance to the beat, listen to us, summon us to share our best sounds.

May we be inspired by their commitment, love and vehemence for the memories of our People and our ancestors and thus their narratives and stories will be transformed into song, which, when shared, will be our song, our history, our memory.

May we finally join at this end of Pesach, the count of the Omer and recommitment in the reception of the Torah in the next Chag Shavuot, together, as a Community and extended family in which each of its members achieve a life closer to our Mitzvot, improving our society and our world, on the day that we also celebrate Earth Day, renewing that ancient duty of our People with nature and the world that God bequeathed us.

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