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 Rashi (Ex 15:20) "Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took"  (5734)



 1. On the verse (Ex. 15:20):

“Miriam, the prophetess, Aharon's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances”

Rashi cites the words “Miriam, the prophetess, Aharon’s sister, took” and states:

“When did she prophesy? When she was known only as “Aharon’s sister,” before Moshe was born, she said, “My mother is destined to bear a son” who will save Israel, as is found in Sotah 12b, 13a).

Another explanation: It is written Aharon’s sister since he Aharon risked his life for her when she was afflicted with Tzara’at; thus she is called by his name”.

Plainly, Rashi’s intent is to answer the simple question that arises in the study of the verse, as it clearly states in the Tractate Sotah that Rashi cites:

“The sister of Aharon, and not the sister of Moshe?” (Questioningly)

Rashi therefore answer that the words “Aharon’s sister” are not a description of Miriam

(For then it is difficult since “was she not the sister of Moshe?”)

but rather they come in continuation to the aforementioned words “the prophetess”. Namely, that she was a “prophetess” when she was “still just the sister of only Aharon, before Moshe was born” and the prophecy was that “My mother is destined to bear a son etc.”

Afterward Rashi adds a second answer (why she was just called “Aharon’s sister”) because:

“Since he Aharon risked his life for her etc.”

 However, according to this, one must understand:

  1. Why does Rashi cite the words “Miriam, the prophetess, Aharon’s sister, took”? The words that emphasize his explanation are: “Aharon’s sister”

(for this is the difficulty, “was she not Moshe’s sister?”)

Therefore, Rashi should have just cited these words and not ,“Miriam, the prophetess (took)”

  1. What forces Rashi to make known here (in the simple explanation of this verse) the essence of Miriam’s prophecy? Seemingly, he should have just wrote “When did she prophesy? When she was (known only as) “Aharon’s sister”, and no more!
  2. On the other hand, where does Rashi know, in the simple explanation of the verse, that Miriam‘s prophecy was “My mother is destined to bear a son etc.”?
  3. It is known, that it is not Rashi’s style to cite the source of his comment. Moreover, when he does indeed cite the source, it is in order to add clarity to the explanation that is written. Yet this addition is not necessary to the understanding of the verse.

(For then Rashi would have expressly written it (like his style – in a manner that even a “five-year old student of (Chumash/Mikrah) can understand).

However, to answer a question of a diligent and outstanding student, who may have a difficulty in Rashi’s comment, Rashi writes, “as it is cited etc.”For by examining the source, the difficulty will be resolved.

If, however, the words of the Sages, that Rashi cites, are found in many places, and Rashi just cites one of them

(and does not state plainly, “as is cited in the Talmud” or so forth) –

then his intent is that specifically by examining the cited source in Rashi, will there be clarification of the explanation of the verse.

According to this, in our case:

What is Rashi intending to explain, in the Pshat of the verse, by citing the source?

This statement of the Sages is found in Tractate Sotah and also in Tractate Megillah. Yet Rashi precisely cites the source in Tractate Sotah. It should be the opposite for Tractate Megillah (which is in Seder Mo’ed) in the Talmud, precedes Tractate Sotah (which is in Seder Nashim).

From this, it is understood that specifically what is cited in Tractate Sotah will adds clarification to his comment.

  1. Why does Rashi cite in his second comment the words “Aharon’s sister”, which were already written in the first comment? He should have just written, “Another explanation: since he risked his life etc.”?
  1. It has been mentioned many times that when Rashi brings two comments, and he does not preface that there are indeed two comments (for this shows that they are equal), that it is a proof that in each one of the explanations, there is a difficulty that is not in the other.

Moreover, the first comment is primary, yet nevertheless it is not yet sufficient and we require the second comment.

In our case what is the difficulty in the two comments?

2. The explanation of all this is:

Rashi’s intent in his comment here is to answer:

  1. Why it states, “the prophetess”, which has the prefatory “Hei” (“hei ha'yediah”- ה״א הידיעה) which infers that she had already beforehand prophesized. Therefore, Rashi asks, “and where did she prophesy?”
  2. Primarily, Rashi’s intent is to answer the simple question that arises in the study of the words that he cites: “Miriam, the prophetess (took)”.

It is understood that when the Torah adds a description to the person that is mentioned in an episode of Torah, it is

  1. To show whom it is speaking about. For without the description we would not know this or
  2. To add understanding to the episode that is being told.

In our case, where the Torah adds “the prophetess” to “Miriam”, it is understood that this is not in order to show which Miriam it is speaking about. For we still do not now (until this verse) that she was indeed a prophetess. Moreover, the verse immediately states that she was “Aharon’s sister” which is itself a complete clarification.

Therefore, one must say that the intent of the verse is that the episode mentioned here has a connection to her being a prophetess. Yet seemingly, it is not understood:

We have already learned in Parshat Vayeira that the aspect of prophecy is to know hidden things, as it states:

"Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet” upon which Rashi writes, “For he is a prophet. And he knows that you have not touched her etc.”

Thus, the aspect of prophecy is to know hidden things.

Furthermore, Rashi states in Parshat Vayetze:

“Since the Matriarchs were prophetesses and they knew” which means knowing the future.

And in Parshat Va’eira, Rashi states,

“All expression of prophecy refer to a person who proclaims and lets the nation hear words of admonition”

We thus find that the scope of prophecy is to know hidden things, to know the future and to speak and make heard to the people words of rebuke etc.

Therefore, what is the connection of “Miriam took” to that of her being a “prophetess”? Miriam’s taking the timbrel in her hand and singing is not an aspect of knowing hidden things or the future, and she also did not say words of rebuke. Rather this was a natural result of the feeling of her soul when she saw the miracle.

As Rashi writes concerning this aspect itself:

“When he (Moshe) saw the miracle, it occurred to him to recite a song . .his heart dictated to him that he should sing and so he did. .  Likewise, with Joshua, . .Likewise, the song of the well, with which commences: “Then Yisroel sang etc.”

It is understood simply, that also Miriam, when she saw the miracle, was aroused to sing. Therefore, how is it related here, that she was a prophetess?

3. Rashi answers that the intent of the verse is not to say that here, at this episode, there is a connection to prophecy but rather that the word “prophetess” follows what is written afterward in the verse: “Aharon’s sister”:

For these words in his comment are the very words of the verse

(And it is as if they were written in boldface (large letters)),

and it is just that in the middle he inserts his comment. This is like his style in many places.

In other words, she prophesized when she was still only “Aharon’s sister”, before Moshe was born. Therefore, the intent of the verse here is to answer the question:

In the previous verses, in this very aspect it states “and they believed in the L-rd and in Moshe, His servant”. From this it is understood how much Bnei Yisroel were nullified to Moshe at that time.

In general, even before this, they saw that G-d made Moshe a “L-rd/אלקים “ over Pharaoh that even regarding the viceroy to Pharaoh “without you, no man will lift his hand or his foot”.

Therefore, it is not understood:

How is it possible that she did such a great deed as reciting song etc. as it states “and all the women came out after her etc.” – yet we do not find that she asked permission from Moshe, on this?

Therefore, the verse adds “the prophetess”, that she was a known prophetess, so great that she prophesized even when she was just “Aharon’s sister”, before Moshe was born. And the prophecy was “My mother is destined etc.” Therefore, she was able to say the song before Moshe Rabbeinu (as will be explained).

For seemingly, it would have been better to say “the prophetess the daughter of Amram”, the father of Moshe instead of “Aharon’s sister”, who was a prophet (and secondary) to Moshe.

However, since the verse emphasizes that she was the “the prophetess, Aharon’s sister”, therefore one must say that his intent is to say that the essence of the prophecy is precisely related to Aharon and not to Moshe, as it states, “before the birth of Moshe”.

(For if his intent was just to say that she was already a prophetess, he should have said “the prophet from beforehand”, and so forth)

“She said, “My mother is destined to bear a son etc.”

With this, it emphasizes the great level of her prophecy (and her comparison to Moshe’s level) for:

  1. She prophesized and knew beforehand that Moshe (the leader of Yisroel, where all were nullified to him) would be born.
  2. She prophesized in a matter that was not related just to her (but rather to a matter that is related to Amram and Yocheved etc.)
  3. She prophesized, “My mother is destined to bear etc.” In other words, although Amram and Yocheved were alive nevertheless the prophecy came through her.

From all this it is proven that the level of her prophecy was very great.

This is the intent of the verse to tell us that since she was a prophetess, and moreover that her prophecy was before (and on) Moshe’s birth, therefore – “Miriam . . took . . And Miriam called out to them . . and all the women came out after her etc.”

4. However, this is seemingly not yet sufficient:

Since the intent of the verse is to tell the level of her prophecy with regard to Moshe. Therefore, he explains that the essence of her prophecy is “Aharon’s sister”, as aforementioned.

Yet, on the contrary, it would have been more fitting to say, “the prophetess the sister of Moshe” which would have also conveyed the intent. Since this episode is not connected to prophecy, one must say that “the prophetess” follows what is written afterward “Moshe’s sister”. Moreover, by writing “Aharon’s sister”, where the intent is that she was a “sister” – in the level of – Moshe, in prophecy. This follows what Rashi writes in Sefer Bereshit on the verse “Shimon and Levi are brothers. In one conspiracy”?

Even though it states “And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moshe” – it immediately explains, that it refers to the aspect of “whom the L-rd knew face to face”. On the contrary Moshe promised “A prophet from your midst, of your brethren, like me, will the L-rd, your G-d, establish for you”.

With difficulty, one could say that in our case it is not sufficient to be “Moshe’s sister” in the role as a “prophetess”. For this is similar to “A prophet like me”, where one would not to do anything great, in Moshe’s time, without asking him. Rather it must be a prophetess that prophesized before Moshe, in the days of Amram and Yocheved etc., as aforementioned.

However, since this is problematic, for it is not speaking of prophecy. Moreover and primarily – all Bnei Yisroel recited the song - and the innovation is just that also the women said it (and even they were present at the miracle) – therefore, Rashi cites a second explanation:

“Another explanation: Aharon’s sister etc.”

In other words that there is another reason why Miriam’s level of prophecy is described with the words “Aharon’s sister” (and not “Moshe’s sister”) – “since he risked his life for her when she was afflicted with Tzara’at; she is called by his name”.

In other words, this is what they called her (שכן היו קורין אותה). And since they called her after Aharon’s name, therefore Scripture calls her “Aharon’s sister”.

Rashi begins his second comment with the words, “Another explanation: Aharon’s sister etc.” to emphasize that that this is not an “alternative explanation” that answers the question how “Miriam took etc.” in front of Moshe. Rather, that it is “another interpretation” of the words “Aharon’s sister” (and not “Moshe’s sister”). However, the answer to the aforementioned question – is like the first comment.

However, according to this “another interpretation” it is difficult. For here, it is speaking of Kriat Yam Suf (the splitting of the Sea). Yet Miriam’s being “called by his (Aharon’s) name” – “Aharon’s sister” and not “Moshe’s sister” – is because of an episode that occurred much later!

Moreover and primarily – here Scripture must speak of the virtue of Miriam. Therefore, how can she be called, “Aharon’s sister” – that recounts that she was stricken with plague! Therefore, the first comment is first.

However, seemingly there is no place to say, in the simple understanding of the verses, that she prophesized before Moshe was born. For she was quite young. Therefore, Rashi adds, “As is found in Sotah”.

There (as opposed to Tractate Megillah) the Sages state (before this statement) in explaining the verse, “And the maiden went”: “This teaches that she went quickly like a maiden” - which means that although she was young in years, she had the properties of an adult (“עלמה”) and she was worthy of having prophecy.

5. From the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi's commentary here (Yayina shel Torah):

Miriam refers to the Sefirah of Malchut (sovereignty). In Sefirat Malchut we find two aspects:

  • Sefirat Malchut is rooted in Atzmut (G-d’s Essence) above all the Sefirot.
  • Sefirat Malchut “has nothing of her own” (לית לה מגרמה כלום),

(similar to the moon which is compared to it).

           rather only what it receives from the Sefirot that are above it. Therefore, since it the level of complete bitul and just             receives form the Sefirot that are above it, it is possible that it feels within it () the power of Atzmut that exists in                 the  Or/Light that is drawn to it (even though it is not felt in the Sefirot that are above it).

Similarly, it is with Miriam – and this is alluded to in the two comments in Rashi:

  • The first comment speaks of the virtue (במעלותי׳) of Miriam – that she was a prophetess, and a great prophetess that prophesized (and revealed and drew down) the birth of Moshe.
  • The second comment explains that she was “called by his name” (of Aharon). In other words that she was nullified and secondary (שבטילה וטפילה) to him. For through Aharon’s risking his life for her, it effected that her words were atoned for etc.

It has been explained above that even according to the second comment “Miriam, the prophetess, (Aharon's) sister” – it emphasizes the great virtue of Miriam:

The reason that there are virtues (מעלות) in Miriam - Sefirat Malchut (the beginning of Rashi’s comment) is because she was nullified to Aharon, who is the level of the “Shushbina d’Matronita/ שושבינא דמטרוניתא ” (“Bridal Escort of the Queen”) which refers to the level of  Zeir Anpin or Z”A (“little faces”), which is above her (Malchut) (the second comment).

From this, there is a unique lesson for Jewish women and daughters:

Although women possess many virtues, that men do not have,

(So much so that in the Future, “Woman will surround man” (נְקֵבָ֖ה תְּס֥וֹבֵֽב גָּֽבֶר)).

nevertheless, they must know that, like the saying of the Sages, “Who is a proper wife? One that fulfills her husband's will” (איזוהי אשה כשרה העושה רצון בעלה)

Specifically through this can they achieve the revelation of the virtues that they possess within them.

This lesson is not just with regard to those virtues, that visibly are received from their husband. But also to the virtues that the women possess of their own accord, as is also alluded to in our Rashi.

For seemingly it is not understood:

Why truthfully (did Aharon risk his life for her,  because of which) she is specifically “called by (Aharon’s) name”?

However, the reason is because there is a common aspect in them:

  • The aspect of Aharon is “loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the creatures and bringing them closer to Torah.”
  • Similarly, the aspect of Miriam is to “make loud noises and speak and articulate to the newborn, as do women who pacify a child that is crying”. Therefore, he risked his life for her, and she is called by his name.

With this allusion, that even in the aspects that are virtues that women possess of their own accord, like Rashi’s words, “like women who pacify etc.”. In other words, that it is the nature of a woman to bring close etc. Even in this we say that she is “she is called by his (Aharon’s) name” – that she must receive even this from her husband etc.

On the other hand, it is understood that after she receives from her husband, all of her qualities are revealed in an even loftier level than that of her husband. Moreover, she draws down her qualities to him. So much so that in the Future, this thing will be revealed, namely that “Woman will encompass man”.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Beshalach and Yud-Shvat 5727


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