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Oakland, CA

 My name is Ariel Root Wolpe. I am a Jewish musician, artist, and community organizer. I love figuring out spiritual community and transforming people's hearts through music.


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A Lesson from Miriam

Ariel Wolpe

Rav Epstein, a kabbalist rabbi, comments that when Moshe led the people from Egypt, his sister, Miriam, gathers the women for a celebration of music, song and dance:

וַתִּקַּח֩ מִרְיָ֨ם הַנְּבִיאָ֜ה אֲח֧וֹת אַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־הַתֹּ֖ף בְּיָדָ֑הּ וַתֵּצֶ֤אןָ כָֽל־הַנָּשִׁים֙ אַחֲרֶ֔יהָ בְּתֻפִּ֖ים וּבִמְחֹלֹֽת׃ וַתַּ֥עַן לָהֶ֖ם מִרְיָ֑ם שִׁ֤ירוּ לַֽיהוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה ס֥וּס וְרֹכְב֖וֹ רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם׃

Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels. And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to YHVH, for God has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver God has hurled into the sea. (Exodus 15:20-21)

Rav Epstein notes that Miriam sang her thanksgiving song in the present tense while Moshe formulated his nearly identical praise in the future. This demonstrates that Miriam, in her dance, accessed a higher state of consciousness than did Moshe through song. Miriam drew the future into the present, initiating the Jewish nation into an embodied expression of their promise and their yearning.

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The ability to sing into the present moment is a muscle that is strengthened with practice. No matter what chaos is going on around you, being present with what is and accepting what comes will help you make it to the promised land. Miriam's way of doing that was song, and we each have our own form of self-expression that help us come alive. It may be writing, moving, snuggling, crying, buying a new outfit or eating our favorite food. Miriam teaches us to trust that inner voice and let her flow out, because that will help us live what is actually happening, instead of living in a future that may or may not come to pass.

We try to take Miriam's example to heart as we focus our minds on the present every day, in every moment.