Miryam’s Circle Dance

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Miryam’s Circle Dance

R. Rav Kalonymous Kalman HaLevi Epstein (The Meor V’Shemesh)

And Miryam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, 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.”[11]


After 210 years the Jews finally (and supernaturally) escaped from slavery in Egypt.  Their renowned string of miracles culminated in the greatest wonder of all, the Red Sea parted to allow their passage while miraculously drowning the Egyptians who were following in close pursuit.  When safely secured on the other side, Moshe led the nation in a jubilant hymn of thanksgiving.  The Torah records the words of that song and continues at once with the verses above that recount Miryam’s celebration with the women.  Rav Epstein asks several questions on that passage:

  1. Why is the verse informing us that “all the women went out after [Miryam]”? What is it teaching us by this fact?
  2. Where exactly did Miryam and the women go?
  3. It would have been enough to mention that “the women went out after her with their timbrels…” Why must it add the seemingly superfluous detail about their dancing? Since the Torah never wastes a letter, let alone a word, this added information must be significant.
  4. Why do Miryam and Moshe use nearly the same language when they sing to HaShem, yet Moshe employs the future tense (“Then I will sing…”[12]) while Miryam speaks in the present (“Sing to the Lord…”).

This curious passage is alluding to a mystical teaching in the Gemara about the world-to-come.[13]

In the future the Holy One will make a circle dance (מחול)[14] for the tsadikim.  He will seat Himself among them in the Garden of Eden and each one of the tsadikim will point with his finger and say, “This is our G‑d for whom we have waited, that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we hoped, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”[15]

The idea is as follows: In the stepwise sequence of creating our universe, of crystallizing the material world out of pure undifferentiated light, creation passed through a series of consecutive stages extending from above to below. (This subject is elaborated in great detail on pages 157-166, and summarized in the diagram called, Map of the Unfolding of Worlds on p. 166). In brief: Before the beginning, G‑d’s Infinite Light was everywhere. Creation simply could not happen for there was no room for worlds to emerge, every nook and cranny was already filled with Presence.

HaShem’s first step was to withdraw His light from a circumscribed place, creating a spherical void now free to be filled by something else.  This vacated space became the primordial womb for creation’s unfolding.  Into its hollow depths HaShem emanated a single ray of light (from its radiant surroundings) the unfolding and dissipation of which is the history and evolution of creation as we know it.

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