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    Did Miriam sing? – B’shallach

    The Bible is not sure that Miriam herself sang at the Sea, but Dead Sea texts say she did.

    In the Torah, Moses says ashirah, “I sing”; Miriam tells the women, Shiru “(You) sing!” Possibly the women responded with the words beginning with ashirah.

    The text says Vata’an, literally “she answered” (verse 21), but the root ayin-nun-heh cannot mean “to answer”, unless there is a preceding statement to which to respond (e.g. Deut. 26:5, 21:7, 27:14-15; II Kings 1:11, I Chron. 12:18); hence it means “to utter” (here, “in song”) or “to chant”.

    Targum Pseudo-Yonatan renders vata’an as v’zamrat, “she sang”. Mechilta Shirata says, “As Moses recited the song for the men, so Miriam recited the song for the women” (JZ Lauterbach’s translation). In Ex. 32:18, anot is “tune” or “song”. In I Sam. 18:7, vata’anennah hanashim is, “and the women sang”. Gersonides says they sang a one-verse precis; Chiz’kuni agrees that the Torah gave a precis.

    In Onkelos and Peshitta, vata’an is ume’anya, “and she answered”, i.e. the women responded to Moses’s lead. Malbim says that the women insisted on singing as a contribution to the redemption.

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