Miryam’s Circle Dance
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This essay has been extracted from Sarah Yehudit’s larger study on the nature of gender in Kabbala. Please visit Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of Masculine and Feminine to read a summary and browse through this book or buy it directly.
by Rav Kalonymous Kalman HaLevi Epstein (The Meor V’Shemesh)
Presented and Elucidated by Sarah Yehudit Schneider
Bare Bones Literacy
Miryam’s Circle Dance by Meor V’Shemesh on Parshat Beshalach presents a glorious vision of the things that will change when woman recovers her full stature and feminine consciousness, now matured, exerts greater influence on the world and its values.
dinim (also called gevurot) – These terms mean literally, severities, and refer to the dark knots of unrectified potential that are the driving force behind our universe. Dinim and gevurot are generally associated with unconscious lights.
Hoshana Raba – (literally, Great Call for Redemption). The seventh (and last) day of Sukhot marked by elaborate beseechings for rain and redemption. On that day congregants circle the table that holds the Torah scroll seven times.
lights – Lights are always equivalent to consciousness in kabbalistic writings. Each sefira or spark is a light that transmits a particular insight or capacity for awareness.
malchut – The lowest of the ten sefirot is called malchut which means literally royalty and kingship. It corresponds to the physical plane and represents the final stage in light’s congealing into matter.
messianic era – The messianic era is a transitional time between this world and the next. It begins somewhere towards the end of the sixth millennium (we are now within the period of its likely beginnings) and will take us to the threshold of the world-to-come. It is the joyous stage of actualized perfection. Love of G‑d, love of neighbor, and love of Torah reign.
sefira / sefirot – The ten channels of Divine flow and emanation which link the Transcendent Light with Its evolving and apparently finite creation.
Shemini Atzeret – (literally, Eighth Day of Closure). A holiday that immediately follows the seven days of Sukhot. The eighth day, Shemini Atzeret, is the simplest festival of the Jewish calendar. It, in itself, has no special observances beyond the standard celebratory meals that mark each holiday.
Simchat Torah – (literally, Rejoicing of Torah). In the Diaspora, where each holiday lasts two days (instead of one, as in Israel), the second day of Shemini Atzeret (the ninth day of Sukhot), becomes Simchat Torah, a time of joyous celebration for the gift of Torah. The day is spent circle dancing around the Torah scrolls which are held by the congregants. In Israel, both Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah occur on the eighth day.
Sukhot – (literally, Tabernacles). The fall harvest festival where Jews voluntarily exile themselves from the security of their homes, and live for a week in fragile dwellings beneath the stars, to remind themselves of the impermanence and unreliability of the material world. Special prayers are recited throughout that week and in the morning liturgy, congregants, in procession, circle the table which holds the Torah scroll.
world to come – The seventh millenium and period following the messianic era that marks an entirely new state of existence where physicality dissolves and souls (with their new light bodies) experience an infinitely deepening ecstasy of relationship with G‑d.
worlds – refers both to the four planes of reality: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual; and to the sequential stages in creation’s unfolding (see map of the Unfolding of Worlds on p. 166).
R. Epstein comments on a brief passage from the Torah that transpires after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. With everyone safely secured on the other side, Moshe led the people in a hymn of thanksgiving. Immediately afterwards the Torah describes Miryam gathering the women for a celebration of music, song, and dance.
And Miryam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with circle dances. And Miryam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea.”