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Faith is packing your timbrel

Last Pesach, I heard a sermon given in which my friend and rabbi used the phrase “faith is packing your timbrel” and I got super fixated on this concept and have found it running through my head in difficult times, a sort of mantra to reflect upon.

Perhaps, this struck me so much because my Hebrew name is Miriam and my favorite holiday is Pesach (Passover) and I have long felt an affinity toward Miriam’s method of going out of Egypt. Perhaps it resonates with me as a lover of music and dance. Or perhaps it resonates because it simply a perfect reminder of the beauty of true faith.

We don’t know a lot about the content of Miriam’s song after the Israelites passed through the sea, nor the dance the women did with their timbrels – but it is clear that they had their timbrels with them in this miraculous moment. On some level, the women knew (or maybe just hoped) that Moses was right, and there was a higher power who would safely lead them out of Egypt, that the slavery was ending for good, and there would be a reason to celebrate again. They knew that whenever these coalesced, they would be ready for the much anticipated celebration. (Further proof that women’s intuition is legitimate!)

They left in such haste that they didn’t do many things (perhaps most famously, letting their bread bake to completion), but they remembered their timbrels. Something so seemingly frivolous was not left behind to leave things to chance. They took their timbrels along in their precious and limited cargo space. They didn’t have vehicles to pack up, or rolling suitcases and tubs to fll with their items, only backs slung on their backs which made every single item a distinctive choice to take with them.

I imagine a few women running amongst the Israelites saying “don’t forget your timbrel!” as they busily prepared to flee Egypt.

Would we do that now? If we had to flee our surroundings, would any of us take something which is such a clear component of joy? Would we have the faith to know that things would work out for the best and we would have a use for them again? Or would we take practical things like clothes and food and just hope that someday we can replace the fun stuff? Would we remind each other to take our joyful items, and not only our necessities?

I like to think that Miriam and the women of the exodus set the stage for us. That women everywhere have this instinct to know that things will get better and that Hashem will provide for us. That this keeps us going when times get tough and it is hard to focus on the future. That we can all channel the first prophetess in our own trying times. Most of all, I hope and pray that we always have faith enough to pack our proverbial timbrels.

Miriam in "The Songs of Joy"
Full image

The Songs of Joy, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), at the Jewish Museum, New York.

How to cite this page

Scholten-Gutierrez, Melissa . "Faith is packing your timbrel." 2 April 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 26, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/faith-is-packing-your-timbrel>.

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