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Dancing with Faith

A note to our readers: Today marks the last day of the Jewish celebration of Passover.  For each day of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, we offered a devotional reflection tied to this very special observance as well as Torah readings for each day. Since no work can be done during the holiest of these days, these devotions were prepared in advance for you.

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. — Exodus 15:20

Today is Day 8 of the eight-day celebration of Passover. The Torah reading for today is Deuteronomy 15:19–16:17 and the Haftorah is Isaiah 10:32–12:6.

One of the most joyous moments in the story of the Exodus – and perhaps in the entire Bible – is the singing and rejoicing that occurred just after the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. This was the climactic moment of what had begun as a wayward prince demanding the freedom of an oppressed people and ended with the most spectacular miracles that the world had ever seen on behalf of the downtrodden Israelites. God’s hand was never so apparent, and the people rejoiced for the good that He had done for them.

Let’s picture the scene: The Israelites had just finished crossing the sea and they watched their Egyptian enemies getting closer. Suddenly, the sea crashed down upon the entire Egyptian army! Not only were the Israelites safe, they were also free!

The Egyptians would never be able to pursue them again. First, Moses led the people in a beautiful song of praise to God. Just as he finished, his sister Miriam led the women in song. And what’s this? They were dancing and making music, too, as the Bible tells us with timbrels – a type of tambourine.

The question is where in the world did the women get those timbrels from in the middle of the desert? Did these instruments fall from the sky?

The Jewish sages share a beautiful explanation. They say that the Israelite women, in their great faith, prepared these instruments while in Egypt and while they were still enslaved. Led by Miriam, the women refused to give up hope that the day of salvation would come. Their faith led them to make these instruments, so that when the day came, they were ready!

Miriam’s name has two meanings. It comes from the Hebrew word that means mara, “bitter.” Miriam was born into bitter times of slavery. But the name Miriam is also related to the Hebrew word meri, “rebellion.” Miriam rebelled against the bitterness in her life. She would not accept it — she refused to submit to hopelessness or depression. She lived her life with complete faith that the bitterness would be sweetened. And indeed it was!

Friends, it’s not enough to talk about faith; we need to be willing to act on our faith. That means making life decisions based on faith in God and taking action that fits with His purposes. Our faith must be turned into actions that reflect God’s Word and promises.

Perhaps it wasn’t the parting of the sea that caused Miriam to dance, but rather the sea parted because Miriam began dancing way back in Egypt when she prepared for that day. Remember, while miracles have the ability to inspire faith, it also works the other way around. Our faith has the ability to inspire miracles.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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