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Parashat B’shalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

“Adonai will reign for all eternity!” (Exodus 15:18)

Parashat B’shalach is all about God’s might and miracles: it describes the parting of the Reed Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. In awed gratitude, Moses leads the Israelites in Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea.

But B’shalach is also about personal faith and celebration. Miriam, the first person in the Torah identified as a prophet, takes her drum in hand and leads the women in more song and dance (Ex. 15:20-21). Miriam is called a prophet because she convinces her parents to remain married; she knew Moses, her future brother, would lead the Israelites out of slavery (Exodus Rabbah 1:13).

It is no coincidence Miriam has her drum with her. The Talmud states, “The Children of Israel were redeemed from Israel upon the merit of the righteous women of that generation.” (Babylonian Talmud Sotah 11b). Miriam, like the midwives, is one of those righteous women. Because Miriam has complete faith in God, she packs her drum (along with her unleavened bread!) as she runs for her life so she would be able to celebrate properly. Miriam believes. Miriam is ready.

It is a happy accident Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday is celebrated in this week of Parashat B’shalach. Dr. King’s is famous for many things, including saying, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Miriam didn’t require proof; her faith was enough. I like to think Dr. King would have helped her pack her drum.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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