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{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

They are not, at the end of the portion, the people they were at the beginning: They begin the portion as helpless people, too fearful to even witness battle, and they become courageous enough to wage war against Amalek. Pharaoh had to send the Children of Israel out against their will. God not only leads them away from witnessing war, He creates their fear of battle, “For the Lord said, ‘Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see war, and they will return to Egypt’ (Exodus 13:17).” We speak of God as “The “One Who spoke and created the world,” and once He utters these words, He created the reality of Israel’s fear and their desire to return to Egypt.

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God created their fear so that they would learn to overcome it. “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth!” God wanted them to march straight into the Sea despite their terror, and they did. They moved forward against their fear and they emerged from the Sea inspired and sang the famous Song of the Sea. They sang and then stood still. “Moses caused Israel to journey from the Sea of Reeds.” They were reluctant to leave the place where they had achieved so much (Zohar), and Moses had to force them to move on. That is, the men were hesitant; not the women.

“Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aaron, took her drum in her hand and all the women went forth after her with drums and with dances.” The women did not only sing; they danced, a Machol, a Dance of Mechillah, Forgiveness. The women understood that although God saved them, He had also sandwiched them between the Egyptians and the Sea, just as He had placed them in Egypt. Miriam and the women who followed her recognized that Israel would be unable to move forward until they forgave God for their suffering and their fear. So they sang of God desiring to share His power with them so that they too would be able to “hurl horse with rider into the sea,” as Israel does to Amalek in the closing scene of the portion. The women insisted that the people had to rid themselves of their resentments before they could continue to access the power to overcome their fears, and that only after they had mastered their fear could they stand at Sinai.

There was one consistent theme in the hundreds of stories we heard about my mother as we sat Shivah; she fearlessly waged countless battles on behalf of the helpless, and in so doing, nurtured an environment that allowed her husband and children to stand at Sinai, involved in the world of Torah. May her memory be a source of blessing.

Thank you to the thousands who prayed for her and offered words of comfort.

Shabbat Shalom

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