Torah: Exodus 13:17-17:16
Prophets: Judges 4:4-5:31
Gospel: Matthew 5
Exodus 13:17 | The Pillars of Cloud and Fire
Exodus 14:1 | Crossing the Red Sea
Exodus 14:26 | The Pursuers Drowned
Exodus 15:1 | The Song of Moses
Exodus 15:20 | The Song of Miriam
Exodus 15:22 | Bitter Water Made Sweet
Exodus 16:1 | Bread from Heaven
Exodus 17:1 | Water from the Rock
Exodus 17:8 | Amalek Attacks Israel and Is Defeated
Jdg 4:1 | Deborah and Barak
Jdg 5:1 | The Song of Deborah
The sixteenth reading from the Torah is named Beshalach (בשלח), which means “When he sent.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which can be literally translated to say, “And it happened when Pharaoh sent out the people.” The reading tells the adventures of the Israelites as they leave Egypt, cross the Red Sea, receive miraculous provision in the wilderness and face their first battle.
No Uncircumcised Person
Thought for the Week:
How did the Israelites have tambourines in the desert? The righteous women of that generation were certain that God would perform miracles for them, so they prepared tambourines and dances while still in Egypt. (Rashi and Mechilta on Exodus 15:20)
Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. (Exodus 15:20)
Singing songs of praise and worship is popular in one form or another in virtually every type of Christianity or Judaism. Messianic Judaism has developed a unique worship expression called Davidic Dance. In all but the most orthodox of Messianic Jewish congregations, it is common to find worshippers joining together in dance circles while the rest of the congregation sings. The dances are sometimes elaborately choreographed. Sometimes they are simple Israeli folk dances.
Messianic dance might be a bit surprising for newcomers to a Messianic synagogue. In many religious backgrounds, dancing is banned along with the “cardinal sins” of drinking, smoking and gambling. People coming from similar religious places might be perplexed to come into a house of worship and find people engaged in dance.
Messianic dance has its roots in the Song at the Sea. After Moses and the sons of Israel had finished singing the great hymn of Exodus 15, Moses’ older sister, Miriam, took a timbrel in her hand and led the women in song and dance. Biblical dance was an expression of celebration. For example, when King David victoriously returned from battle with the Philistines, the women of Israel came out singing and dancing to meet him. When King David brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, he danced before it all the way into the city. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that when the Messiah comes, there will be dancing. “Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old, together” (Jeremiah 31:13).
Dance was a natural expression of joy and worship in ancient Israel. The psalmist enjoins the worshippers in the Temple to praise the LORD with dancing:
Let them praise His name with dancing;
Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. (Psalm 149:3; 150:4)
In Judaism, dance has always been a popular way of celebrating and expressing joy. In some sects of Judaism, holy men dance with ecstasy in the presence of God. However, in non-Messianic Judaism, dance in a synagogue service is unusual. It ordinarily only happens at special occasions like Simchat Torah. Messianic Judaism has combined dance with contemporary worship music and made it a staple of the regular Messianic worship experience. It looks like Messianic Jewish dance is here to stay.
That being the case, we should note that only the women danced at the Red Sea. Why didn’t the men dance? Every time the Bible mentions dance, it is gender separated. In biblical dance, men and women did not dance together. The only time men and women were separated in the Temple was during the dancing that accompanied the Feast of Tabernacles. Since Messianic Judaism has fallen in love with Jewish dance, perhaps we should maintain its biblical integrity by keeping it gender separated.
Read complete commentary at First Fruits of Zion.