Flint Into Fountains

                “The Dance of Miriam”                 by Marc Chagall

A teaching by Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir, from Or HaMeir, on the reading for the seventh day of Pesach.

וַתִּקַּח מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן אֶת הַתֹּף בְּיָדָהּ וַתֵּצֶאןָ כָל הַנָּשִׁים אַחֲרֶיהָ בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלֹת   Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after with timbrels and dancing. Exodus 15:20

Rashi explains that the righteous women of the generation had such trust that the Holy One of Blessing would perform miracles for them that they brought timbrels with them from Egypt. To understand this let’s first understand what the Zohar says on the verse, hatzur tamim paolo, “The Rock! His deeds are blameless” — that “the Rock” changes Itself in order to do the deeds of the blameless (1). “The Rock” represents the divine attributes of Judgment and Might, and “blameless” refers to the attributes of Mercy and Compassion, whose human representative is Jacob, “a blameless man” (2). In this way we can understand the verse from Job, “Because of his deeds, God changes Himself to do for them,” which the Zohar understands to mean, “Because of people’s deeds, the Blessed One changes from the Throne of Judgment to the Throne of Mercy, in order to their will” (3).

The rule is that everything depends on our actions in this world below; through our actions we can affect the blessed Holy One, Who acts towards us according to how we act, for good or for bad (4). So our holy Torah testifies to the great righteousness of Miriam the Prophetess, who took the timbrel. What is התף/hatof, “the timbrel”? The word is made up of the letters from our verse, ה hatzur ת tamim פ paolo (5), and this is what Miriam took in her hand — the ability to cause God to change in order to do the will of the blameless, to do through them great miracles and wonders (6). So Rashi hints that when our sages said, “It was through the merit of the righteous women that Israel went out from Egypt,” they spoke of Miriam and all the women who went out after her with timbrels and dancing, who had such trust in the kindness of God to do miracles and wonders through them. From this we learn the power of our good deeds to change divine Judgment to Mercy.

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1) The Biblical Hebrew is much closer to this re-reading than it appears in English; the full text is as follows: Rabbi Shimon said: What is the meaning of הצור תמים פעלו hatzur tamim paolo? That the Rock changes Itself in order to do the deeds of the blameless. Who is “the blameless?” Abraham, for it is written of him, “Walk before me and be blameless.” This is also the meaning of the verse, hahofkhi hatzur agam mayim, “The Rock turns into a pool of water.” (Zohar II, 64b, citing Deuteronomy 32:4, Genesis 17:1, and Psalm 114) “The Rock” is understood to refer to the divine attribute of Judgment, while both water refers to the attribute of Mercy or Lovingkindness, of which Abraham is the human representative.   2) Genesis 25:27; the words tam and tamim can be translated as blameless, perfect, innocent, simple, and more.  3) Zohar I, 109b on Job 37:12; granted, this is a creative reading of the verse, but the Hebrew is so obscure that every reading is an interpretation. G!d’s two “Thrones” is an ancient rabbinic motif (see Avodah Zarah 3b)   4) The word I’ve translated as “actions,” hitorerut, is literally “awakening” or “arousing,” the idea being that we arouse God to act lovingly (or not) towards us; the language has definite sexual overtones.   5) The word tof/ תף would normally be written with an extra letter, תוף; I think this difference, along with the fact that the verse specifies “the tof” (which timbrel?) clued in Rashi and the Or HaMeir to something deeper happening.   6) The Or HaMeir consistently changes Rashi’s language from להם  “to them,” to עמהם  “with them” or (in a more explicit translation that I think is justified in this teaching) “through them.” I don’t think the change was an oversight on his part.

For a more daring teaching quite possibly based on this one, click here.

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This entry was posted in Beshalach, Hasidic Masters, Parsha, Seventh Day of Pesach, Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir/Or HaMeir. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Flint Into Fountains

  1. Pingback: Circles and Lines, or, The Original Women’s Liberation | Hasidism for the Rest of Us

  2. Pingback: Circles and Lines, or, The Original Women’s Liberation | Hasidism for the Rest of Us

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