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15 January 2011

Sister-Prophet Shabbat

Shabbat B'Shallach (the shabbat of Pharaoh's letting-go) is also called Shabbat Shirah (Shabbat of Song) because of the Song attributed to Moses in Exodus 14. It is most likely the song sung by Miriam in Exodus 15:20-21 to open the sea and send the people forward. Only the first verse is cited here, a common shorthand in biblical literature. And it is placed in the mouth of Moses, the allegedly dysfunctional mouth of Moses who needed Aaron to speak for him, and perhaps Miriam to sing for him.

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a drum in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the HOLY ONE OF OLD, for God has triumphed gloriously;
 horse and rider God has thrown into the sea.”

A great many biblical scholars read the song as Miriam's composition and find the assignment to Moses secondary.
There is another song that leads me to rename this shabbat, the song of Deborah. In the haftarah, the portion from the Prophets that accompanies the Torah, the story and song of Deborah are the lesson for today.

Deborah, a prophet-woman, a fiery woman (woman of lappidoth - flames), she was judging Israel at that time...
The peasantry prospered in Israel,
they grew fat on plunder,
because you arose, Deborah,
arose as a mother in Israel...
...And the land had rest forty years.
(Judges 4:4; 5:7, 31)

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