"Miriam Took her Timbrel out and all the Women Danced:" A Midrashic Motif of Contemporary Jewish Feminism

Simcha Paull Raphael


In Exodus 15:20, following Moses’ Song at the Sea, we encounter an interesting passage: “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a drum in her hand; and all the women went out after her with drums, dancing.” Whereas Biblical tradition has tended to ignore, or at least minimize women’s experience, here Torah provides a very clear description of a public women’s celebration, led by Moses’ older sister Miriam Ha-Neviah, Miriam the Prophetess. This scene of women celebrating together with musical creativity, fervor and devotion has become a powerful image and rallying point for contemporary Jewish feminism. Over the past twenty-five years, Midrashic extrapolations of the Miriam motif have burgeoned within the North American Jewish community. Concomitant with the full empowerment of women as rabbis, teachers and ritual leaders, the motif

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