Imagine that in the middle of the night the fire alarm in your house goes off and you have to leave it immediately. What you would grab on your way out? Your phone? Wallet? Clothes? Probably. Musical instrument? Unlikely.
After 210 years of slavery and multiple requests for freedom that Pharoah denied, the Jewish people finally had a window for escape from Egypt and had to leave in a hurry before Pharoah changed his mind again. After a tense scene at the sea, pursued by the Egyptian army and with nowhere else to go but forward, the sea parted and the Jews walked through it to freedom.
In thanks to God, the Jewish People sang. “Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women came out after her with tambourines and with dances” (Shemot 15:20)
Leaving Egypt was a “fire alarm” moment. We eat matzah on Pesach, because we know they had to leave in such a rush that they did not have time for their bread to rise. So where did the tambourines come from? And how did all the women have them?
There was no group WhatsApp to get the message distributed at lightning speed, and surely tambourines were not a priority item to pack.
The answer must be that, following Miriam’s leadership, they had packed them in advance. Miriam was a prophetess and knew for certain that, despite the way things looked in Egypt, the Jewish people would be free. Amid the darkness and trauma, she mentally lived in the future as if it was already happening. She packed her tambourine, and told all the women to do the same, because she knew that they were going to need it when they were free.
Many people go through traumas and dark periods in their lives. It may not be possible to explain why the situation is happening, but if we can take a lesson from Miriam and live in the present as if the trauma has passed and plan for the future beyond, it may bring some light into the darkness and hopefully will result in singing and rejoicing in the end.
- Siobhan Dansky is rebbetzen at Cranbrook United Synagogue