B’shalach (Exodus 13:17−17:16)
This Week’s Torah Portion: B’shalach – בְּשַׁלַּח Exodus 13:17−17:16)
This week’s Torah Portion includes one of the oldest portions of the Torah, the famous “Song of the Sea.” Standing on the far side of Red Sea, having walked through walls of water to find their freedom, and witnessing Pharaoh’s army lost in the waves, the people of Israel sing this song – a victory ode to God who has carried them from Egyptian slavery to freedom’s shore.
After the song ends, the text continues:
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand and all the women went out after her to dance with timbrels. And Miriam chanted for them:“Sing to the Eternal, for God has triumphed gloriously;
Horse and driver God has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:20-21)
That is all that the Torah gives us of Miriam’s song. We do not know if the rest was lost or if the chant continued wordlessly or if that is all that there was. Miriam’s song was missing until our own day. It took a modern Miriam, Debbie Friedman, of blessed memory, to re-create the song with words and melody and rhythm, and to let the women and men of our day dance and celebrate this ancient story.
This week marked the 10th yahrzeit of Debbie Friedman who brought the music of Reform Judaism to life. May her songs live on in our hearts and in our prayers for generations yet to come.