Did Miriam Sing?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

With recent media discussion of the prohibition for men to listen to women sing, we would do well to closely examine the story of Miriam publicly singing after the splitting of the sea. We certainly cannot decide matters of Jewish law from simply a verse without taking into account the Oral Torah. However, the Taz’s famous dictum that the Sages are unable to forbid something the Bible explicitly permits reflects the discomfort of such textual dissonance — the Talmud cannot contradict the Bible. The difficulty Miriam’s singing poses to the law forbidding listening to women sing shrinks when we note that the Torah never actually says that she sang. The word used, “va-ta’an,” and a few other textual cues have spawned commentarial debate throughout the ages. What follows is my attempt to organize the discussion by genre and era, with a conclusion discussing the intersection with practical halakhah.

I. The Text

ותען להם מרים שירו לה׳ כי גאה גאה סוס ורכבו רמה בים.

And Miriam sang (va-ta’an) unto them: Sing ye to the Lord, for He is highly exalted: The horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. (JPS)

A number of questions arise from this passage:

  1. Regarding Moshe, the text says that he sang (yashir; Ex. 15:1). The wording changes for Miriam to va-ta’an. Does this mean that she didn’t sing?
  2. Moshe begins his song by saying that he will sing to God. Miriam, in contrast, begins by calling others to sing. Does this mean that she did not sing herself?
  3. The word “unto them” is in the masculine form (lahem) rather than the feminine (lahen). Was Miriam singing with the men?
  4. Why is Miriam’s song so short (1 verse) compared to Moshe’s (18 verses)?

As we go through the generations, different answers to these questions will be provided by many commentators.

II. Ancient Translations

Targum Onkelos consistently translates any word in the Torah related to song as either “shabachu” (praise) or “shabachu ve-odu (praise and thank). This includes the Hebrew words shir (e.g. Ex. 15:1, Deut. 31:30), zemer (Ex. 15:2) and anah (Num. 21:17). Our verse seems to be the only, at least that I could find, exception. Targum Onkelos renders va-ta’an literally, as “u-me’anya, and she answered.”

I am not sure why Targum Onkelos generally renders song as praise (and thanks) rather than literally. However, the exclusion of our verse from this trend, especially considering the similar word in Num. 21:17 which is translated as praise, implies that Miriam was not singing. She was chanting the words, repeating them without tune.

The Peshitta, a translation of the Bible into the Aramaic dialect of Syriac, follows Targum Onkelos on this issue. Targum pseudo-Yonasan also generally translates song as praise and sometimes also thanks, except for va-ta’an. However, Targum pseudo-Yonasan render va-ta’an as “ve-zamras, and she sang.”

It seems that the ancient translations differed over whether Miriam sang these words or merely chanted them. We see among midrashim a similar difference of opinion whether Miriam and the women sang the song of praise or recited it.

III. Midrashim

The Mekhilta implies that Miriam sang this: “Just like Moshe said a song for the men, Miriam said a song for the women.” While we could infer that they only “said a song” and did not actually sing it, the Mekhilta seems to raise Miriam’s va-ta’an to the level of Moshe’s yashir rather than vice versa. However, Miriam sang for the women and (perhaps while) Moshe sang for the men. R. Aryeh Kaplan in a footnote to The Living Torah quotes Philo in The Life of Moses as saying that the women sang at the same time as the men. Similar to the Mekhilta, the Yalkut Shimoni (Hos. 2 no. 518) says that va-ta’an refers to actual singing, implying that Miriam sang the song.

The Midrash Sekhel Tov (quoted in Torah Shelemah on Ex. 15:21 n. 240) says that the angels wanted to sing praises to God before the women but Miriam answered them and called for the women to sing. This explains the language of va-ta’an as meaning that she answered the angels, and gives significance to her calling the women to sing. The implication is that the women said the song on their own, after the men. However, the Midrash Sekhel Tov (ibid., n. 241) also explains the word va-ta’an as meaning calling out (ein aniyah ela amirah), which means that Miriam did not sing but rather called out (i.e. spoke) the song for the women to repeat it.

IV. Early Grammarians

Three interpretations of va-ta’an arose among the grammarians of the tenth century. R. Sa’adia Gaon, in his Arabic translation of the Bible, renders the word as “repetition,” like Targum Onkelos. R. Donash ben Livrat, in his critiques of R. Sa’adia’s translation (no. 117), insists it means “praise,” like the Targumim generally translated such words, and not repetition or song. R. Menachem ben Saruk (Machberes Menachem, a-n), however, says the word means singing with a tune. Only according to R. Menachem among the grammarians did Miriam sing.

V. Early Commentators

Like the divergence among the Targumim, midrashim and grammarians, the Rishonim disagreed whether Miriam actually sang. Rashi quotes the Mekhilta but changes it somewhat, as he often does. He states that “just like Moshe said the song to the men, he said they repeated after him, so too Miriam said the song to the women.” Unlike our understanding above of the Mekhilta, that it raises Miriam to Moshe’s level of singing, Rashi’s interpretation seems to lower Moshe to Miriam’s level of saying and repeating. According to Rashi, neither Moshe nor Miriam sang their songs. They chanted them as poetry of praise.

Bekhor Shor and Chizkuni say that Miriam actually recited the entire song that Moshe said. However, to avoid repetition, the Torah only provides the headlines of the second time. Ralbag (ad loc. and in the tenth to’eles) disagrees and suggests that the women said a much shorter song.

R. Avraham ben Ha-Rambam states that earlier commentators debated whether Miriam sang. According to R. Sa’adia Gaon, Miriam and the women recited — spoke — in alternation Moshe’s entire song. Targum Onkelos, on the other hand, contends that the women sang the song. However, as explained above, I am not sure where he sees that in Targum Onkelos.

Radak (Sefer Ha-Shorashim, sv. a-n-h) translates va-ta’an in a unique way. He suggests that it means “testify,” which implies that Miriam did not sing the song in contrast to Moshe, who sang.

VI. Later Commentators

Commentators of the past few centuries were more explicitly sensitive to the halakhic dissonance. I quote here some approaches that correspond to a simple (peshat) reading of the text.

R. Ya’akov Culi, in his Me-Am Lo’ez, notes that Miriam and the women used musical instruments while Moshe and the men did not. He explains that the instruments were intended to drown out the sound of song so the men would not hear. The Tzeidah La-Derekh and Tzofnas Panei’akh explain similarly. The Chida (Devash Le-Fi, ma’arekhes kuf, no. 19) disagrees. He suggests that the men and women sang together and the men heard the women. However, because the Divine Presence rested on them, there was no prohibition for the men to listen to the singing.

Talelei Oros quotes the Vilna Gaon as suggesting that the reason the Torah says va-ta’an is that Miriam and the women would not sing because the men would not be allowed to hear them. In other words, the women did not sing. They intentionally refrained from singing because the men are prohibited from hearing it.

From other commentators, including those who do not generally incorporate halakhic considerations, we find interpretations that alleviate the difficulties. Mendelssohn’s Bi’ur explains that Miriam did not sing her own song. Rather, she and the women merely responded with a brief refrain to Moshe’s song. Cassutto interprets the verse in the same way. R. Zalman Sorotzkin (Oznaim La-Torah) similarly explains that Miriam only indicated her and the women’s approval to Moshe and the men’s song. She/they answered the men, in agreement to the men’s song.

However, other commentators, including some who were certainly concerned about any halakhic disconnect from the Bible, upheld Miriam and the women’s singing. Shadal explains the verse as meaning that Miriam sang for the women. Similarly, Malbim explains that the women sang their own song because the entire Exodus was due to the merit of the righteous women. Da’as Mikra also interprets the verse as meaning that Miriam and the women sang their own song together. Netziv suggests that the women composed their own song and Miriam concluded each stanza with the refrain recorded in the Torah.

VII. Modern Translations

Among both Jewish and, le-havdil, Christian translations, we find some that interpret Miriam as singing and some that don’t. Note, in particular, the New JPS translation:

  • KJV – “And Miriam answered them”
  • NIV – “Miriam sang to them”
  • RSV – “And Miriam sang to them”
  • JPS – “And Miriam sang unto them”
  • NJPS – “And Miriam chanted for them”
  • The Living Torah – “Miriam led them in the response”
  • Artscroll Stone Tanach – “Miriam spoke to them”

After all is said and done, it is not clear that Miriam and the women sang. And if they did, they may very well have sung among themselves, possibly even while the men sang among themselves. The text is ambiguous and even commentators unconcerned with halakhic issues read the episode differently. And even if Miriam and the women sang and the men listened, the Chida explained that the moment of a divine revelation is an exception.

More interesting, it seems to me, are the threads of interpretation that weave their way through different genres and eras. Commentators with different agendas and sensibilities ask different questions but end up in the same places as their predecessors, often unknowingly.

(Let me add that I put this together rather hastily so I welcome corrections and additions)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

110 comments

  1. Robert Alter notes on Ex. 15:20

    And Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand. One surmises that she is called “prophetess” (nevi’ah) because the singing and dancing are an ecstatic activity, and one of the established meanings of the Hebrew term for “prophet” is an ecstatic who typically employed dance and musical instruments to induce the prophetic frenzy. Miriam is designated Aaron’s sister in accordance with a practice of identifying a woman in relation to her oldest brother. The custom of women’s going out in song and dance to celebrate a military victory was common in ancient Israel and the surrounding peoples and figures significantly in the David story. The women here sing out the opening lines of the song we have just heard as kind of antiphonal refrain. Everett Fox notes that Miriam is a witness by the water both at the beginning of the Moses story and now.

  2. Cassutto is a tad ambiguous. he says they sang or perhaps only recited a refrain to the song the men sang. i would assume the women sang a refrain in response is more likely what cassutto means than the women merely recited a refrain. in any case, they certainly played instruments in a mixed event. i like the “before matan torah” defense.

  3. To add to the list of translations…

    Fox renders:

    Now Miryam the prophetess, Aharaon’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand,
    and all the women went out after her, with timbrels and with dancing.
    Miryam chanted to them: […]

    Alter renders:

    And Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand,
    and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances.
    And Miriam sung out to them: […]

    —–

    As a more general comment, I think looking at verse 21 without the context of verse 20 is misleading.

  4. what about Devorah, seems clearer that she sang a song, no?

  5. Yasher koach, R’Gil for the exposition on the issue of whether or not Miriam sang (or for whom). My own take on the subject is a bit different, however. In the context of the verses, it would seem that the men did not initially sing. In fact, their dominant emotion at seeing the dead Egyptian would-be attackers washed up on shore was shock and awe,”..and the people feared Hashem.. (Ex.14:31). It was the same feeling that Yitro later had when he heard the story. “Now I know that Hashem is greater than all lords for that which they willfully executed (on Israelite newborn males happened to) them”, i.e., those who drowned Israelite newborns (or did not object) were themselves drowned. The people were thus in a state of shock or trembling and would not have spontaneously burst into song. The Oz Yashir song was either developed later or was sung originally by Moshe (after all, how did the people learn the words and tune). Miriam, however was inspired to bring the people into a mood of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the great divine deliverance that they had witnessed. She therefore lead the women into performing a dance with drum accompaniment while singing the simple refrain, “Sing to Hashem for He has dealt proudly, and cast horse and rider into the sea”. This was presumably a prompt to get the men to sing the first verse of Moshe’s song, “I will sing to Hashem for he has dealt proudly and cast horse and rider into the sea”. Alternatively, it is a stand alone refrain which was later reflected in the opening verse of Oz Yashir. The objective, in either case, was to get the men into the proper frame of mind. Awe of the divine might and justice, and belief in Moshe’s mission are, of course, important. But such worthy sentiments need to be completed by a song of thanksgiving (Think of Shakespear’s Henry V – at least in Kenneth Braunagh’s film version where the great victory at Agincourt leaves the English victors stunned by the vast slaughter that they accomplished, followed by the singing in Latin of the Hallel hymn,’Lo Lanu’).

    The propriety of Miriam singing should not be a question here since the torah here calls her Miriam the prophetess (Ex. 15:20, i.e., she was divinely inspired to do what she did.

  6. Moshe Shoshan

    My understanding is that
    Miriam and the women did in fact sing in front of the men. Since this was an official national ceremony, Moshe and Aaron did not protest.

    another possibility is that it was an operatic performance which we know is mutar.

  7. Excellent article!

    One point you left out is that the psukim start earlier than you quoted, with “Miriam the prophetess took her tamberine (or drum) in her hand, and all the women left after her….” Whatever she and the others did, the word “tetzena” makes clear that they seperated themselves first.

    Another analysis that would be very interesting is to see how these psukim are used by halachic literature. Are the psukim used in discussions of the permittedness of women singing in groups, or when men can’t see them, or for kadosh songs, etc? I vaguely recall that they are – it would be interesting to see such a collection.

  8. i like the “before matan torah” defense.

    Tzniut is the kind of thing that would have equally have existed before matan torah.

  9. “I am not sure why Targum Onkelos generally renders song as praise (and thanks) rather than literally. However, the exclusion of our verse from this trend, especially considering the similar word in Num. 21:17 which is translated as praise,”

    This whole paragraph defeats itself.

    “implies that Miriam was not singing. She was chanting the words, repeating them without tune.”

    I agree with you that this implies that Miriam did not burst out into prayer and Thanks. Rather, she answered. But who says she did so without a tune? Miriam here is the moon to Moshe’s song, she is just responding to it, and not singing her own song. But to suggest that she did a monotonous tuneless response, just makes this whole analysis seem forced.

  10. Besides, what about the dancing? That seems completely unambiguous, and indeed, the Mishna at the end of Ta’anit makes it clear that Chazal thought there are some conditions, at least, where it is permissible for women to dance in front of men. Does anyone say that is OK now?

  11. Rabbi Y.H. Henkin

    See Bnei Banim 4, maamar 20.

  12. What about the saying from the sages that “two (multiple) voices are not heard”?

  13. R’ milhouse,
    Not only did devorah sing but iirc it was with barak.
    Kt

  14. Rafael Araujo

    Doesn’t the fact that the Torah makes the point of informing us that the Miriam and the women took instruments and did some reciting/answering/singing that they were not included in the Shiras HaYam? I would assume, without these pasukim, that when the pasuk states “Az Yashir Moshe u’venei Yisroel” that they are included in that?

  15. An interesting example, it turns out, for how hashkafa influences how the text is read.

  16. I’m not sure why we assume that “yashir” means to sing/ modulating the voice to produce a melody? “Shirah” also – maybe primarily – means poetry, to use our closest English equivalent. I’m not even sure that the tof be-yadah implies melody either. What do we know about song, melody and poetry other than almost nothing from that period?

  17. S. — I think that is the distinction being made between “sung” and “chanted” in the English translations. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_music_in_the_biblical_period

  18. IH – only if you want to see it that way, and of course, you do. My reading is textual based. Can you answer my question why the Torah went to the trouble of devoting two pesukim to this? If not, sit tight.

  19. Slightly off the subject of “shira” per se, but related to the preservation of “tzniyut” within the context of ecstatic worship in unprecedented situations, there is another incident which comes to mind: When David Ha-Melech first goes to retrieve the aaron ha-kodesh, the celebration described (a playing of various instruments) contrasts with the unrestrained joy, shouting, leaping and dancing that is later detailed once the aaron is finally brought to Ir David.

    Michal chastises the king’s conduct on the basis of both dignity and modesty. David’s response, perhaps, provides an insight for this discussion?

  20. Rafael — I don’t understand your point. All the readings are textual based. I was not advocating one or the other in my comment, rather observing the fact that this is a nice example of how hashkafa influences how a text is read.

  21. For info, Prof. Kugel, in his 1997 “The Bible as it Was” cites Philo and a DSS fragment in a short section titled “Miriam’s Separate Song” (pp. 350-1): http://tinyurl.com/7s96h54

  22. This topic was addressed this past week in Gilyon Ma’adanei Asher v.401 at page 1

    See here > http://www.ladaat.net/siteimages/fl_4f2a7c330b418.pdf

  23. “S. — I think that is the distinction being made between “sung” and “chanted” in the English translations. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_music_in_the_biblical_period

    But all the earliest translators used those words to mean “Give praise and thanks”, which means it has little if nothing to do with “sung” or “chanted”. It’s a complete red herring based on what the earliest targumim wrote.

    ” I would assume, without these pasukim, that when the pasuk states “Az Yashir Moshe u’venei Yisroel” that they are included in that?”

    It could go either way… Bnei Yisroel v’lo Banot.

  24. Avi — what is your source for the first half of 11:33am. See Philo as linked above. And I also now see this Septuagint translation from the Greek online: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/02-exod-nets.pdf

    (our verses are on p. 62)

  25. Wow — this looks like a fabulous resource: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/

  26. IH, the first section of this post: “Targum Onkelos consistently translates any word in the Torah related to song as either “shabachu” (praise) or “shabachu ve-odu (praise and thank). This includes the Hebrew words shir (e.g. Ex. 15:1, Deut. 31:30), zemer (Ex. 15:2) and anah (Num. 21:17). Our verse seems to be the only, at least that I could find, exception. Targum Onkelos renders va-ta’an literally, as “u-me’anya, and she answered.””

  27. Avi — huh. How does the last sentance lead you to think that either “sung” or “chanted” is a red herring?

    BTW, the Septuangint and Philo pre-date Onkelos.

  28. Joel: Yup:

    וַתָּשַׁר דְּבוֹרָה, וּבָרָק בֶּן-אֲבִינֹעַם

  29. Yeah, yeah, I know, he was her husband. Never mind that her husband’s name was “לפידות”.

  30. Part of the question should be “Did Miriam sing BEFORE THE MEN?”

    The possuk states that the women “went out ” (va teitzena) after Miriam, which implies a separate singing. Rashi and the Mechilta seem to say the same thing — Miriam led the women, Moshe led the men — which implies separate singing. The Gilyon Ma’adanei Asher indeed quotes someone who explained that the singing was separate.

  31. “Avi — huh. How does the last sentance lead you to think that either “sung” or “chanted” is a red herring?”

    Because the words are changed, and they are changed to words which have no implication as to the type of voice used to create sounds. They only seem to care about the intent behind the sounds created, not their cadence, or melody or any other aspect of their voice. I’m curious know if the Chumash ever talks about a person “speaking quickly” or “speaking slowly”

    “BTW, the Septuangint and Philo pre-date Onkelos.” I don’t know any Greek to comment on it.

  32. What about? on February 6, 2012 at 7:50 am
    What about the saying from the sages that “two (multiple) voices are not heard”?

    This is a perfect example of how one can easily misread a gemara.

    The literal reading is that two voices are not “heard.” Does that make any sense at all? If two people (could be two men) were to sing or chant something (e.g. the Torah reading), does that mean that people hear silence? That is absurd.

    Rather, the meaning is that when two people chant something, you cannot make out their words. Thus the halakha is that if two people lein the Torah together, the tsibbur is not yotzei, because they cannot understand the words they are saying. (Megillah is in fact an exception — the gemara says that because the Megillah is so beloved, people can make out the words even if two people were to chant it together.)

    Unlike leining, I doubt that kol be isha erva requires one to be able to make out the words. For that matter, if a woman were to sing nonsense words (LA LA LA LA LA), I doubt that would be any less of an issue.

  33. “Think of Shakespear’s Henry V – at least in Kenneth Braunagh’s film version where the great victory at Agincourt leaves the English victors stunned by the vast slaughter that they accomplished, followed by the singing in Latin of the Hallel hymn,’Lo Lanu’”

    Agincourt is a great parallel — the French knights, who outnumbered the English knights, got stuck in the mud and drowned.

    “another possibility is that it was an operatic performance which we know is mutar.”

    ROTF!!! I’m actually attending the Metropolitan Opera tonight.

    But I’m not sure why this is of concern: The kol isha prohibition is a d’rabbanan. It would not have been asur for the men to listen to Miriam at that time in history! The specific mention of female singers in Nehemiah 7:67 would appear to be much more difficult.

    “Tzniut is the kind of thing that would have equally have existed before matan torah.”

    Not as a commandment — it is not one of the 7 Noachide laws.

    “Not only did devorah sing but iirc it was with barak.”

    Also presumably prior to the decree of kol ishah.

  34. Gil – Just to be מוסר מודעה the Dov above is not me. Nice article, though I still think the Radak means she lifted up her voice in song.

  35. “The specific mention of female singers in Nehemiah 7:67 would appear to be much more difficult.”

    Also no d’rabbanans then. And presumably not at the time when the Talmud describes, say, professional female mourners.

  36. 1) I don’t see how this would really be relevant to the halacha as we know it. If one is to understand that tznius is subject to societal norms than one could simply say that in those days, right when they came out of Egypt (the forty-ninth gate of impurity, as it were), a woman singing would not be a lack of tznius. This is especially noting that we are dealing with an eighty year old prophetess, and that it is occurring moments after the Jewish people witnessing the greatest miracle in history. The fact that a thousand years later Chazal were mesha’er that a woman’s voice, in general, is alluring to men, is not in any way contradicted by this story.

    2) Regarding the Radak. The following is his lashon:

    וענין אחר קרוב לזה הענין, “שקר ענה באחיו” (דברים יט:יח), “לא תענה ברעך עד שקר” (שמות כ:טז), “וענתה בי צדקתי” (בראשית ל:לג)… כולם ענין עדות. וענין אחר קרוב לו, “ותען להם מרים” (שמות טו:כא), “ענו לה’ בתודה” (תהלים קמז:ז), “עלי באר ענו לה” (במדבר כא:יז), “וענה איים באלמנותיו” (ישעיה יג:כב), “וענתה שמה כימי נעוריה” (הושע ב:יז). והפעל הכבד מענין זה, “למנצח על מחלת לענות” (תהילים פח:א), “כרם חמר ענו לה'” (ישעיה כז:ב), “קול ענות אנכי שומע” (שמות לב:יח), ענין הכל הגבהת הקול בשיר. ויש באבל, והוא “וענה איים באלמנותיו”, וכן בדברי רבותינו ז”ל (מועד קטן כח:) מענות אבל לא מטפחות ולא מקוננות, ופירשו הענוי שכולן עונות כאחת.

    Now, if you wish to say that ותען להם מרים is part of the group of which he says כולם ענין עדות, you will have to say the same thing for the next four examples, until “והפעל הכבד”; otherwise it won’t flow. So let’s examine those pesukim in context:

    עֱנוּ לַיהוָה בְּתוֹדָה זַמְּרוּ לֵאלֹהֵינוּ בְכִנּוֹר (תהילים קמז:ז)

    אָז יָשִׁיר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת עֲלִי בְאֵר עֱנוּ לָהּ (במדבר כא:יז)

    וְרָבְצוּ שָׁם צִיִּים וּמָלְאוּ בָתֵּיהֶם אֹחִים וְשָׁכְנוּ שָׁם בְּנוֹת יַעֲנָה וּשְׂעִירִים יְרַקְּדוּ שָׁם. וְעָנָה אִיִּים בְּאַלְמנוֹתָיו וְתַנִּים בְּהֵיכְלֵי עֹנֶג וְקָרוֹב לָבוֹא עִתָּהּ וְיָמֶיהָ לֹא יִמָּשֵׁכוּ (ישעיה יג:כא-כב)

    וְנָתַתִּי לָהּ אֶת כְּרָמֶיהָ מִשָּׁם וְאֶת עֵמֶק עָכוֹר לְפֶתַח תִּקְוָה וְעָנְתָה שָּׁמָּה כִּימֵי נְעוּרֶיהָ וִּכְיוֹם עֲלֹתָהּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם (הושע ב:יז)

    Are you really willing to say that in all these cases, Radak wishes to translate “to testify”? To compare them with לא תענה ברעך עד שקר and the like? I can’t believe that.

    Furthermore, Radak himself repeats one of these examples – וענה איים באלמנותיו – at the end, so he obviously meant to put it in the singing group.

    Furthermore, from my limited beki’us in Radak, when he says וענין אחר, he means to start a new group, which he tends to translate after he cites all the examples of that group.

  37. not sure i understand the rabbinic people. if you believe that kol b’isha ervah is literal (as the general charedi halachic mesorah does), then it means that that itself is ervah (which is d’oraisah) and even without a recitation of shmah issue, the fact that those three words were said in the gemarah is an indication that the rabbis interpreted the issurei kirvas ervah as including listening to singing, possibly equal to familiar touching or kissing.
    based on that, u can’t say that it wouldn’t apply pre-matan torah.

    also of course consider that the reading of the Noahide issur of arayos was very broad per many commentaries (e.g. why we could kill Shechem).

    Joel, Nachum – it was a beutiful duet, and i’m not sure whether u could claim trei koli, as it is highly probable that some parts were by devorah alone and some by barak (ala I got u babe from the Sonny and Cher) as opposed to them both singing on two wavelengths ala shimon and funkelgar.

  38. The literal reading is that two voices are not “heard.” . . . That is absurd.

    Rather, the meaning is that when two people chant something, you cannot make out their words.

    Sorry, Tal, but that is no less absurd. Here are 4 men singing Salomone Rossi’s Al Naharot Bave (dates from around the time of the Shulchan Aruch): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HubKpEPkkYw

  39. Regarding תרי קלי, it should be noted that even RYY Weinberg in his famous teshuva (Seridei Esh 2:9) dismisses this as a viable heter (though he does say that supposedly R. Hildesheimer and R. Hirsch held of it).

    I think it is כמעט an open Gemara that תרי קלי is not a heter, the Gemara in Sotah 48a:

    אמר רב יוסף זמרי גברי ועני נשי פריצותא זמרי נשי ועני גברי כאש בנעורת

    Note how נשי is in the plural, yet the Gemara still thinks it’s really bad.

    Oh and Gil, isn’t it interesting how the Gemara uses the term עני?

  40. Sorry, Tal, but that is no less absurd. Here are 4 men singing Salomone Rossi’s Al Naharot Bave (dates from around the time of the Shulchan Aruch): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HubKpEPkkYw

    IH, try to engage the brain before you engage the keyboard.

    Obviously, if two men (or four in your case) get together and practice a song as a group, after a while one might well be able to make out the words. Chazal were not stating an absolute rule (as I noted, Megillah is an exception). They were talking about two people leining at the same time. It is hard enough to make out the leining for many baalei kriah. Take two random baalei keriah and get them to lein simultaneously, and most people in th shul will not be able to make out the words. That is what the trei kalei lo mishtamai means.

  41. Tal — you have twice been rude and insulting to me this afternoon. For someone who claims religious superiority, some civility and humility would be prudent.

  42. As a counter-example, more often than not, can you hear individual voices when Kaddish is said by mourners? I usually can and pick one to whom I answer Amen.

  43. Rafael Araujo

    IH – actually, since you raised that, the halochoh is that you are supposed to answer to each man’s kaddish and not pick just one. However, if the each man reciting ends a part for response within 2-3 seconds of each other, you can answer to one or the other and it is as if you answered both men reciting (or more).

  44. יג וַיְהִי כְאֶחָד למחצצרים (לַמְחַצְּרִים) וְלַמְשֹׁרְרִים לְהַשְׁמִיעַ קוֹל-אֶחָד,לְהַלֵּל וּלְהֹדוֹת לַיהוָה, וּכְהָרִים קוֹל בַּחֲצֹצְרוֹת וּבִמְצִלְתַּיִם וּבִכְלֵי הַשִּׁיר וּבְהַלֵּל לַיהוָה כִּי טוֹב, כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ; וְהַבַּיִת מָלֵא עָנָן, בֵּית יְהוָה.

    דברי הימים ב פרק ה

  45. “Also no d’rabbanans then.”

    See below.

    “you believe that kol b’isha ervah is literal”

    It may be literal, but it is not d’oraita — the quote is not from Chumash but from Ketuvim. You don’t get d’oraitas from Ketuvim.

    And if we believe our mesorah as to the authorship of Shir HaShirim, the d’rabbanan would date to Shlomo HaMelech and therefore the source in Nehemiah is difficult.

    ” that the reading of the Noahide issur of arayos was very broad per many commentaries ”

    Not according to the gemara in Sanhedrin, which clearly says that there are intimate relations permitted to Noachides but forbidden to Jews.

  46. Rafael — Interesting topic. Actually, until the Chatam Sofer, only one mourner said Kaddish. I only have the English translation in digital form to hand:

    “The Sephardim have a custom that all the mourners say the Kaddish in unison; and to all of them the congregation responds. The sage Rabbi Emden wrote the custom of the Sephardim, that everyone says it together, was correct.”

  47. Charlie: It’s a machlokes ha-poskim whether Kol Ishah is derabbanan or de’oraisa, although most hold derabbanan. However, your suggestion (that the issur was not yet in force) was also offered by the Sefer HaMiknah, a serious heavy-hitter.

    Regarding the other biblical examples, here is what R. Eliezer Melamed writes about those cases:
    http://revivim.yhb.org.il/2012/01/%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%9C-%D7%91%D7%90%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%94/

    תירץ בתפארת ישראל (מו”ק פ”ג מ”ט, יכין סח) בשם אביו: “דבשעה שהמת מוטל לפניו אין חוששין להרהור, תדע דביצרו מתגבר יזכור יום המיתה [כפ”ק דברכות] עכלה”ט”.

    וכ”כ דברי חפץ דרוש לד, א (אוה”ח עמ’ 230): “ועדיין יש לחלק ולומר דהתם לית ביה משום דהם אומרים קינה דבר הגורם להרבות בכיה, המשבר את הלב, ולית למיחש להרהור עבירה”…

    ובשו”ת באר שבע (ח”ב, באר מים חיים ג) כתב: “ואל תשיבני מדכתיב ותשר דבורה וברק בן אבינעם וכו’, כמו שנשאלתי מן אשה משכלת, כי יש לומר על פי הדיבור שאני. וכיוצא בזה ממש תירצו התוספות בפרק החולץ להא דכתיב גבי דבורה ‘והיא שפטה את ישראל’, והלא הלכה רווחת בישראל דאשה פסולה לדון, כדאיתא בהדיא בירושלמי ביומא, עיין שם”.

    מכילתא פרשת בשלח: “ותען להם מרים שירו לה’ כי גאה גאה סוס ורוכבו רמה ביום – מגיד הכתוב כשם שאמר משה שירה לאנשים כך אמרה מרים שירה לנשים שנאמר שירו לה’ וגו'”.

    עוד תירץ בילקוט מעם לועז שמות טו, כ: “וזה שלקחה התוף בידה לומר שירה ולא עשו כן האנשים, הטעם הוא מפני שקול באשה ערווה, ואסור לאשה לזמר בפני אנשים, ולכן לקחו הכלים האלו כדי שלא ישמעו קולם”.

    עוד כתב במטה אפרים (אלף למטה, קדיש יתום ד, ט): “נראה דבלאו הכי אין ראיה מ’ותשר דבורה’, שעיקרה לא נאמר אלא נוסח השירה והמליצה הנפלאה אבל לא נזכר ששרתה בקול לפני אנשים”.

    ובספר את צנועים חכמה (ח”ב עמ’ תעד) העלה שאולי כוונת הפסוק אצל דבורה אינה לשירה במובן של זמר וניגון אלא לשירה במובן של שבח ותהילה, כפי שתרגם יונתן בן עוזיאל: “ושבחת”.

    עוד נראה לומר, שבאותו הזמן עדיין לא גזרו חכמים על קול אשה, ואכן בכל דבר שגזרו בו חכמים יש צד חיובי וצד שלילי, ולכן אין בו איסור מהתורה, ורק חכמים עשו סייג לתורה, מפני שראו שהצד השלילי שבו גובר. וכן מצינו שבזמן בית המקדש הראשון, לפני שעשו חכמים סייג לתורה, חטאו רבים בגילוי עריות, ואילו לאחר שתקנו חכמים את תקנותיהם, חטאים אלו כבר לא היו רווחים בישראל. ועיין בספר אורות במאמר ‘חכם עדיף מנביא’.

    וכן העלה סברא זו בספר המקנה על קידושין ע, א. וכ”כ בשו”ת אבני ישפה ב, ה, שבאותו זמן שהנביאות שרו עדיין לא נאסר קול באשה.

  48. Rafael — the first reference, as per the quote above, is from the Siddur of the Yavetz. The specific mareh makom is: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22431&st=&pgnum=351 (see 2nd para of the Ktav Rashi).

  49. For completeness, Rafael, my own practice is to pick one voice out to concentrate on the words; but it is said in unison and my Amen is for all mourners in the Kahal (male and female).

  50. may be literal, but it is not d’oraita — the quote is not from Chumash but from Ketuvim. You don’t get d’oraitas from Ketuvim.

    Somewhat off-topic, but that is not always true. First of all, the gemara says that sometimes something that is part of TSBP is then incorporated by the Neviim into Nach. (For example, the Gem. Kiddushin quotes a possuk in Yirmiyah that in the future, people will return to EY and purchase fields with money — sados ba kesef yiknu. The gemara learns from there that karka is purchased with kesef.)

    Second, a possuk in Nach might reveal something about the identity of something which a different possuk in the Torah addresses.

    The fact that something is an “ervah” does not yet tell you anything. The relevant halakhos that it might impact are lo yiraeh bechah ervas davar and ve nishmartah mikol davar ra. The former forbids nakedness when one recites holy matters or learns Torah; the latter forbids a man to have lustful thoughts that could bring him to seminal emissions. Those laws are both deoraysa.

    A possuk in Nach could simply teach us that a particular thing is arousing and hence falls within one (or both) of the prohibitions.

  51. Rafael Araujo

    IH – I am aware that having more than one male recite kaddish is a newer phenomenon. The CC, in the MB, has a kuntres hakaddishim, that discusses the rules about who recites kaddish, given the fact that only one boy/man would recite kaddish. This is still practiced in minyanim like the GRA shul in Bayit V’Gan in Yerushalayim.

  52. 1)Maybe they sang at the same time but in different places so the men didn’t hear the women
    2)Maybe singing shiros in praise of Hashem isn’t a problem of kol isha, like the famous story about Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz at the Shabbos table with young women singing:

    Rav Baruch Ber was visiting the home of my grandfather, Rav Elozor Mayer Preil, for Shabbos (it was not Sukkos–he did visit on another occasion for the Shmini Atzeres-Simchas Torah yom tovim, but that’s another story), together with his son-in-law, Rav Reuven. At the appropriate time during the Friday night meal when the family would sing zmiros, the girls joined in, as was their usual practice. My aunt (Eliyahu’s grandmother) was certainly over the age of bas mitzvah, and my mother (who was two years younger) believes she was also. Rav Reuven became upset and turned to Rav Baruch Ber and audibly said “Kol isha!” Rav Baruch Ber smiled and said it was alright—“zey leiben der Abishter mit a niggun” (they are praising G-d with a song). The zmiros continued without further ado. Hillel Raymon
    Source: http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v22/mj_v22i55.html

  53. The Rav held that Onkelos is special in that it represents what Onkelos heard the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabon learning, and is a faithful transmission of the Masoretic understanding of verses/words. That being said, the use of “answering” in the context of the Gemora and Kol B’Isha Erva might indicate that Chazal themselves were saying that “what was appropriate for that time and experience, involving a Neviah in the presence of Moshe, cannot be translated into our times, and we declare this prohibited”

    That being said, I need to get out my Bnei Banim tonight and see what R’ Henkin writes on this topic.

  54. “here is what R. Eliezer Melamed writes ”

    Thank you!

  55. Shasdaf, R’ Leiman once gave a whole shiur comparing various versions of that story.

  56. Moshe Shoshan

    I Tal and Rafael on this one. there is no real reason to think that Miriam and Co were necessarily in front of the men when the preformed.

  57. Neil Schluger

    Philological gymnastics aside, the common understanding of the Jews in the pews (men and women both) has been that Miriam did sing, and that she did it in front of the assembled multitudes. Attempts to read this common understanding out of the tradition because of a growing desire to create a fundamentalist and misogynistic Judaism that has never heretofore existed are misguided, to say the least. Such approaches ultimately are destructive of the tradition itself, and harmful to the dignity of pious and dedicated Jewish men and (especially) women.

  58. “Philological gymnastics aside, the common understanding of the Jews in the pews (men and women both) has been that Miriam did sing, and that she did it in front of the assembled multitudes…. Such approaches ultimately are destructive of the tradition itself”

    This is a good point.

  59. A tangential question: There is a Rabbinic tradition that one is now allowed to understand Shir ha’Shirim in its p’shat form, but only as an allegory for the relationship between God and the Jews. Given this, how can the halachic basis for Kol Isha Erva be verses of Shir ha’Shirim in their p’shat form?

  60. Oops: one is NOT allowed

  61. Rafael Araujo

    Neil – that may be true. However, is the “common understanding of the Jews in thew pews” based on what “they” want to text to say, or based on close reading of the text. Let’s take the issue of kol ishah out of the equation. Would you agree in reviewing these pasukim a few times that one gets the impression that the women in fact DID NOT sing/recite/answer in front of the men?

  62. ” Given this, how can the halachic basis for Kol Isha Erva be verses of Shir ha’Shirim in their p’shat form”

    You call that Pshat!?

  63. Neil: I believe your sentiments are correct in general. However, there are plenty of urban myths within Judaism and people are used to them. All we are asking them to do is read the verse and they will see that it doesn’t say that Miriam sang. I can’t see how this is damaging to tradition

  64. IH: A tangential question: There is a Rabbinic tradition that one is now allowed to understand Shir ha’Shirim in its p’shat form, but only as an allegory for the relationship between God and the Jews. Given this, how can the halachic basis for Kol Isha Erva be verses of Shir ha’Shirim in their p’shat form?

    I think it would make an interesting study to line up all the talmudic quotations from Shir HaShirim and see how many/if any use peshat.

  65. Rafael — read R. Henkin’s ma’amar, particularly the last paragraph in column 1 on p.129 (that spans into column 2).

  66. I think it would make an interesting study to line up all the talmudic quotations from Shir HaShirim and see how many/if any use peshat.

    Agreed, but this is probably a Masters thesis given the number of references — 11 pages in Hyman (Talmudic, Midrashic and Zohar).

  67. ” Would you agree in reviewing these pasukim a few times that one gets the impression that the women in fact DID NOT sing/recite/answer in front of the men?”

    I don’t think anybody suggests that the women were all gathered in front of the men. Rather they would have been intermingled with them.

  68. Rafael Araujo

    Fine. So why the impression that they sang separately. And if they did, why tell us they did?

  69. Rafael Araujo

    Sorry, meant to write “And if they sang together with the men”

    Avi – were the world do you see the intermingling.

  70. Rafael Araujo

    Whoops. “Where in the world do you see intermingling?”

  71. Rafael–I don’t see how the question can be answered, really. The original post itself demonstrates that a variety of commentators (and many later scholars) couldn’t agree on this point, so who am I to say who is right here? I am reminded of the statement that “all translations are commentaries”, and I think that this is the situation we are in now. I think there is ample precedence in the tradition for accepting the common, communal understanding of the text (לא בשמים היא, after all) in circumstances when the original meaning is obscure, especially, it seems to me, in cases such as this, when the common understanding gives women a sense of dignity and kavod in a foundational episode of Am Yisrael.

  72. “Avi – were the world do you see the intermingling.”

    The Midrashim tell us there were 12 paths through the sea.. not 24. The Torah itself only mentions one road through the sea.

    At no point does it tell us that the people physically separated themselves between men and women until Har Sinai where they are instructed to remain celibate for 3 days. And even then, they could have remain intermingled, but just been celibate.

  73. avi, we are discussing the time when the sang the shirah, not when they were escaping from the Mitzrim or any other time.

    The word vatetzeina certainly implies that the women went out of the camp to a separate place. Rashi and the Mechilta also imply that the singing was separate — Moshe led the men, Miriam the women. If they were together, there was no reason to have separate song-leaders. I always understood the possuk and Chazal’s reading of it that way. I don’t think one must read it that way, but it is the most natural reading.

    Neil Schluger on February 7, 2012 at 9:14 am
    Philological gymnastics aside, the common understanding of the Jews in the pews (men and women both) has been that Miriam did sing, and that she did it in front of the assembled multitudes. Attempts to read this common understanding out of the tradition because of a growing desire to create a fundamentalist and misogynistic Judaism that has never heretofore existed are misguided, to say the least. Such approaches ultimately are destructive of the tradition itself, and harmful to the dignity of pious and dedicated Jewish men and (especially) women.

    I don’t know what your basis for ascertaining what the “common understanding” is. Generally, we follow Chazal when understanding what the Torah wants of us.

    And I see nothing misogynistic about separate singing for men and women. Quite the contrary, Miriam the Neviah was just as capable of leading the women as Moshe the men, and both were inspired praise of HKBH.

    Our tradition has always viewed intermingling of men and women as kalus Rosh, which is not only generally inappropriate but particularly inappropriate in a place of kedushah. While the bank of the Yam Suf was not a place with kedushahs makom, it was a place where the Jewish people reached a high level of inspiration. So gender separation would have been particularly appropriate there.

  74. “The word vatetzeina certainly implies that the women went out of the camp to a separate place”

    Really? Since when does somebody answer somebody else by leaving their presence?

  75. but it is the most natural reading.

    Tal — then to which lahem (masculine) did Miriam ta’en?

  76. ta’an or ta’ahn 🙂

  77. Lahem is also sometimes used for groups of women. See Bamidbar 27:7, where Hashem himself(!) used kahem to reference the daughters of Tzlofchod.

    “The word vatetzeina certainly implies that the women went out of the camp to a separate place”

    Really? Since when does somebody answer somebody else by leaving their presence?

    I think you are reading lahem to reference the men, not the women. If it references the women, the pesukim are straightforward — the women followed Miriam out of the camp, and there Miriam led them (the women) in a song of praise. The subject of va taan is Miriam, and the object is the women.

    As I said, this appear to be how Rashi and the Mechilta read the possuk.

    BTW, Avi, what does vatetzeina mean acc. to you?

  78. Sorry, “kahem ” should be lahem. Typo.

  79. See Bamidbar 27:7, where Hashem himself(!) used kahem to reference the daughters of Tzlofchod.

    I should note that what is odd about that possuk is that it uses both lahem and lahen to refer to the same five women. Don’t remember ever seeing anyone comment on it.

  80. The subject of va taan is Miriam, and the object is the women.

    R. Henkin observes:

    ועוד,אם מרים זמרה לנשים בלבד אזי “ותען” אינו הפעל הנכון, וראוי היה לכתוב “ותשר”.

  81. R. Henkin’s comment assumes that ‘anah can only mean “to answer.” But as Gil has pointed out, it can also to mean to sing a praise, as in Bamidbar 21:17 (ironically enough, a song about the well of water, which Chazal closely associate with Miriam. Even more ironically, the possuk starts “As Yashir Yisroel,” very close to the shiras ha yam.) Since ‘anah can mean to sing a praise, then vataan can mean cause someone (them) to sing a song, or lead them in song.

  82. Rafael Araujo

    “I think there is ample precedence in the tradition for accepting the common, communal understanding of the text (לא בשמים היא, after all) in circumstances when the original meaning is obscure, especially, it seems to me, in cases such as this…” – Neil Schluger

    Common, communal understanding? Whose community? As we see here, there is no “common understanding” of these events, even though there are explanations that fit better into the text than others.

    “…when the common understanding gives women a sense of dignity and kavod in a foundational episode of Am Yisrael”

    Maybe unrelated, but Neil, do you believe women sitting in a separate section, behind a mechitah, rob them of dignity and kavod? Aren’t you trying to read the text to accord with your current feminist sensitivities?

  83. Ye’yasher kochakhem to our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student and distinguished respondents.

    I agree with R’ Avi that the fact the midrash speaks of 12 channels (and not 24) through Yam Suf seemingly indicates there was no separation while the Jews were traversing the Yam Suf. [Ye’yasher kochakha on this proof.] At the same time, it is interesting that R. Menachem Mendel Kasher (Divrei Menachem no. 35, sec. 4) believes(based on Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer) that there was indeed separation at Ma’amad Har Sinai. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22267&st=&pgnum=124

    [I am not commenting on the IDF question, since everything in the IDF is piku’ach nefesh, and so a unique set of halakhic rules potentially applies there.]

  84. “— the women followed Miriam out of the camp,”

    Where does it say that?

  85. ““— the women followed Miriam out of the camp,””

    Further more, where do you get the idea that they even set up a camp to leave before rejoicing at the defeat of the Egyptians?

  86. Neil Schluger

    Rafael–I appreciate your comments. As for your question “do you believe women sitting in a separate section, behind a mechitzah, rob them of dignity and kavod?”, I think we should ask some women what they think. It’s probably more relevant than what I think.

    As for “Whose community?”, that’s a very good question, to which I wish there were a clear answer, though I fear there isn’t. I only meant to suggest that many ordinary folk (i.e. non-scholars), have grown up with the idea or impression that Miriam was in fact singing, and that both men and women heard her. It doesn’t mean it’s true, as you point out, but it might imply that that particular understanding has meaning to people, and they have preserved it. In a completely unscientific move, I’ll take a poll tomorrow at minyan (don’t worry, men only).

    I think we are now getting pretty far afield from the question of what Miriam was singing or saying to exactly whom at the Yam Suf, though it’s interesting that the existence of a mechitzah today should require us to understand that there was separation of the sexes at the Yam Suf, if that’s your point (I actually don’t think it is, so forgive my error.).

    As for “feminist sensitivities”, the only thing I can say is that I have never before been accused of having those. I’ve been called many things, but never a feminist. My wife and daughter will be amused.

  87. Georg Friedrich Händel held it was singing. (Warning: Kol isha in link, obviously.)

  88. IH asked:

    “A tangential question: There is a Rabbinic tradition that one is now allowed to understand Shir ha’Shirim in its p’shat form, but only as an allegory for the relationship between God and the Jews. Given this, how can the halachic basis for Kol Isha Erva be verses of Shir ha’Shirim in their p’shat form”

    The Rabbinic tradition may be that with respect to Parshanut issues, no one is allowed to understand Shir HaShirim al pi Pshat, but that Chazal have the same latitude with regards to deriving Halachos therefrom as they do from any other text.

  89. A tangential question: There is a Rabbinic tradition that one is now allowed to understand Shir ha’Shirim in its p’shat form, but only as an allegory for the relationship between God and the Jews. Given this, how can the halachic basis for Kol Isha Erva be verses of Shir ha’Shirim in their p’shat form?

    Um… physical attraction is the mashal while spirituality is the nimshal, and to be meaningful an allegory must have an understandable mashal?

  90. ““— the women followed Miriam out of the camp,””

    Further more, where do you get the idea that they even set up a camp to leave before rejoicing at the defeat of the Egyptians?

    I never said they set up a camp. By camp I merely referred to the group of people traveling together, who had just come out of the Yam Suf.

    Avi, let me repeat again, what, acc. to you, does vatetzenah mean? From what or from where did the women “go out” following Miriam?

  91. MiMedinat HaYam

    shasdaf — the incident is verified in rifkah (teitz) blau ( = granddaughter of rabbi priel) ‘s book on her father. and personally verified with her brother. the lone living witness says he was too young to remember, but that is what he was told in growing up. all agree on the reasoning.

    there is a charedi legend about the incident, recounted in MOAG, that RBBL attributed it (and allowed it due) to the non existence of bais yaakov schools in america. this is implausible, since a: bais yaakov was just started in poland, and was extremely controversial, esp to a “kanoi” like RBB (and his son in law, r reuven grozovsky, whom the ottmail citation refers to, without naming him.) and b: the preil family were a proper litvish family, would not do something inappropriate. (of course, r priel was a RY at RIETS, but still.) and c: the charedi version is that RBBL still allowed it, did not leave the room, etc. and it was RRG who objected, not his father in law.

  92. Sounds to me like no less a luminary than the Radak opens up an even bigger Pandora’s box by saying that the women “testified”

  93. Lawrence Kaplan

    JJ: Thanks for the link to Handel. What can I say? I found listening to it an extraodinarily moving, indeed deeply religious, experience.

  94. It seems to me that the root meaning of ‘anah’ is to respond. Miriam was inspired to sieze the moment and to induce the b’nei Yisrael to respond to the miracle of the sea with thanksgiving and song. She led the women ,who had been in their family settings, out in public to dance before the menfolk and to keep time with their timbrels. She led them in the chant, “sing to Hashem for He has dealt proudly, He has cast horse and rider into the sea”. The idea was to induce the men to respond, “I will sing to Hashem…” and thus end their deep religious experience on a note of joy and thankfulness.

  95. Moshe Shoshan

    The issue of chazal’s understanding of shir hashirim is a complicated one. as is the question of whether chazal had a concept of “peshat” in the sense that it was used by the rishonim.
    I think the idea that chazal held that there were different “alegorical” rules governing the interpretation of ShS as opposed to the rest of tanach is fundamentally mistaken. this describes the approach of many rishonim. As Daniel Boyarin (see his “Intertexuality” book) has also argued, it can be demonstrated that chazal use essentially the same midrashic tools in reading ShS as they do in the rest of Tanach. the apparent differences are a result of the distinctive poetic feature of ShS rather than the books content.
    As far as the second issue is concerned, despite occaisional refernces to “peshuto” of the biblical text, Chazal did not operate with a bifurcated hermeunutic of “pshat” and “drash” as did rishonim. AKMAL with regard to both of these issues, but the bottom line is, i think the idea that chazal (as opposed to the rishonim) had some sort of opposite to understanding ShS “lefi peshuto” is erroneous.

    WRT to instances where chazal focus on the ShS descriptions of an actual female, as far as i am aware, there are only two, the source for kol isha and the source for sear she baisha erva- in the same sugya in brachos. I think that this is very interesting.

  96. Isn’t Handel glorious?

    Little known fact- William Shatner also did an oratorio of Exodus because, well, he’s William Shatner. (Perhaps Prof. Kaplan can tell us more.) Alas, I don’t have the disc on me now to see how he handles this verse. 🙂

  97. “Avi, let me repeat again, what, acc. to you, does vatetzenah mean? From what or from where did the women “go out” following Miriam?”

    From their place where they were not moving or dancing. If you are at a simcha, you might say that the women “go out” to the dance floor.

  98. Joseph Kaplan

    From reading the comments, the conclusion I’ve come to is that there are three ambiguous words in these verses: vatetznah, vata’an and lahem. And the interpretation of these ambiguous words in the comments, and thus an understanding of what happened, is not dependant on any literary or parshanut type analysis but on the inclination of the interpreter, before confronting this particular text, on the issues being dealt with in the post and comments.

  99. Nachum — there is also Paul Dessau’s oratorio “Haggadah shel Pesach” that I heard last year in Carnegie Hall: http://www.americansymphony.org/concerts/passover-in-exile (links to Concert Notes at the bottom)

  100. Hello from Paris,
    I really don’t understand why there is a problem to know if Miryam sang or not. She sang, really.
    And the way she did it shows us the way we have to behave:
    Miryam took all the ladies appart so that they could sing the Shira themselves (The Shira is not men propriety). The ladies saw the miracle and they have to witness it.
    Miryam just taught them how to do that. She took all the ladies appart and then they could sing and play music. The shira is the highest level to communicate.
    There is also one interresting comment about what Miryam sang: ‘sus verochbo rama bayam’. This is definitely the main idea of the Shira!
    Kol touv.

  101. i still don’t see how u get around Devorah, even if there is textual reasons to imply a special case by Miriam.

  102. i still don’t see how u get around Devorah

    1. Acc. to one opinion, Barak and Lapidot were one and the same person, so he was her husband.

    2. They were singing a song of praise to Hashem, as to which some poskim say kol ishah does not apply.

    3. The possuk says they sang together. Some permit that, since the men’s voices overrides the women’s.

  103. Lawrence Kaplan

    Re the Handel: It’s a song of praise to God, and, as Tal notes (2), some poskim permit that. Also, except for about a ten second interval where there is a female solo, it’s all sung by a male and a mixed choir, and, as Tal notes(3), some poskim permit that. Not to mention it’s a recording, and some poskim permit that. OTOH, the performance takes place in a church.

  104. Tal, even if barak was the husband, the context of the song seems clearly to have been to an audience, not in private (just the two of them). they sing out ““Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to[a] the LORD; I will praise the LORD, the God of Israel, in song.”
    if this was in private, song is pretty weak and useless. sounds more like a rally song to the masses. your response 2 is the only one that makes sense, since it is hard to believe that they would both sing all the words together at the exact same time, unless they are that bad song team from weekend update (SNL).

  105. Moshe Shoshan –

    WRT to instances where chazal focus on the ShS descriptions of an actual female, as far as i am aware, there are only two, the source for kol isha and the source for sear she baisha erva- in the same sugya in brachos.

    There are more instances. The example that comes to mind is Niddah 19b.

  106. It was the custom for women to go and greet the returning warriors with song. The Shira is itself very much in this line.

  107. Which returning warriors?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: