I am woman, hear me sing

Of all the halachas out there, only one really grates me.  I mean this one REALLY gets under my skin.  It’s not Shabbos, or kashrus, or covering hair (although I’m not sure why I should cover my hair with hair.  But OK, when in Rome.)

It’s kol isha.

I mention this because this week is Parshas Beshallach, aka Shabbos Shirah.  It;s called Shabbos Shirah because there are, between the parshah and the haftarah, three songs.  And, two of them happen to be sung by women!

We all read the story every day of the parting of the sea, and how Moshe Rabbeinu sand a victory song in praise of G-d actions.   But afterwards, Miriam picked up her tambourine and, not to be outdone by her brother, led all the women in song.  Shocking!  After all, women can’t sing in front of men! 

One explanation I heard for this was that the women all stood off to one side so the men wouldn’t hear them, and Miriam’s percussionary prowess drowned out their voices.  Since we know that there were 600,000 men, and most of them were probably married, that would mean there were about a half-million women.  Where were they standing in that open desert, Eretz Canaan?  Also, I don’t care if you have Peter Criss of KISS doing percussion, one tambourine can’t drown out a half-million voices in an open plain.  Another was that the Torah had not yet been given, so there was no prohibition of kol isha yet.  Really?  Then how did Yaakov Avinu know to say Shema when he was reunited with his son (Shema is not taught until Devarim chapter 6)?  What were Shem and Eber teaching at their tent yeshiva?  More importantly, how did Noach know which animals were kosher when he loaded up the ark before the Flood?

However, Miriam is not the only one rocking out in praise of Hashem.  In the haftarah, taken from Sefer Shoftim (Judges), we hear the story of Devorah’s victory against Sisera’s army, mostly made possible by Yael and her “stake” dinner., Afterwards, Devorah and Barak sing a little duet about Hashem’s triumph over evil.  W00t!  However, something tells me that this had to be a public act.  After all, if it made it Tanach, odds are she didn’t perform this little number in the closet.

Now we have two women, both of them righteous, both of them prophets, singing in public.  How then do we justify the halachah of kol isha?

Some say that a woman’s voice is so powerful, it can seduce a man.  After all, look at the myth of the Sirens.  Heck, just look at the old 900 lines.  However, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  From Frank Sinatra to the Jonas Brothers women and girls have gone crazy for a man’s voice.  Personally, I have chosen dating partners based solely on their voices twice in my life.  Neither experience ended particularly well.  (Builder’s voice is pretty average.  But he can still do a pretty fair “Askinu Seudasa.”)

Here’s an idea.  Let’s pass a new law that men can’t sing in front of women.  The only music permitted is instrumental.  That should leave everyone pretty well dissatisfied.

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Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I am planning a lesson for my 8th graders on Yael’s “stake” dinner and came across your blog-I will use your women and song for a class discussion-thanks


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