בסיעתא דשמיא

פתיחות | The Song of Miriam, a petiḥah by Rabbi Ruth H. Sohn (1981)

I, Miriam, stand at the sea
and turn
to face the desert
stretching endless and
still.
My eyes are dazzled
The sky brilliant blue
Sunburnt sands unyielding white.
My hands turn to dove wings.
My arms
reach
for the sky
and I want to sing
the song rising inside me.
My mouth open
I stop.
Where are the words?
Where the melody?
In a moment of panic
My eyes go blind.
Can I take a step
Without knowing a
Destination?
Will I falter
Will I fall
Will the ground sink away from under me?

The song still unformed–
How can I sing?

To take the first step–
To sing a new song–
Is to close one’s eyes
and dive
into unknown waters.
For a moment knowing nothing risking all–
But then to discover

The waters are friendly
The ground is firm.
And the song–
the song rises again.
Out of my mouth
come words lifting the wind.
And I hear
for the first
the song
that has been in my heart
silent
unknown
even to me.


“The Song of Miriam” is provided here, complete, by the author. It was first published, omitting the very last line, as “I Shall Sing to the Lord a New Song,” in Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim, Reconstructionist Prayerbook, 1989, 1995 Second Edition. Reconstructionist Press, pp. 768-769. (This poem was also published in several haggadot and other books and set to music by several composers in the U.S. and Israel.) She wrote the poem in 1981 as a rabbinical student after immersing herself in the Torah verses and the traditional midrashim about Miriam, and after writing a longer modern midrash about Miriam. Her midrash on Miriam was published as “Journeys,” in All the Women Followed Her, ed. Rebecca Schwartz (Rikudei Miriam Press, 2001).

Leave a Reply. (All comments are shared with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license unless another Open Content license is indicated.)


בסיעתא דארעא