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    9 Soldiers Walk Out
    The following story became a major news
    item in Israel, back in September 2011,
    reflecting the poor communication between
    religious and secular Jews, allowing for
    stereotypes on both sides to persist.
    At a military event, Jewish female
    soldiers began singing solo as part of a
    military band. Nine religious Israeli
    soldiers chose to leave the auditorium,
    based on the law in Judaism that men
    should not listen to women singing.
    Regiment Commander Uzi Kileger warned
    them: “If you don’t come back inside
    immediately, you will be refusing orders
    and will be dismissed from the course.”
    (According to the General Staff orders, a
    religious soldier is entitled not to take part
    in recreational activity which contradicts
    his lifestyle and faith, but the orders do not
    apply to non-recreational military events.)
    Indeed, four of the nine religious cadets
    who walked out were dismissed from their
    officers’ course.
    In much of the Israeli media, these
    soldiers were blasted for their “primitive
    behavior” and their tenacious adherence to
    an “orthodox custom” which denigrates
    women, advocating their voices to remain
    cloistered, so that they do not, “heaven
    forbid,” express them uninhibitedly.
    How sad when Jewish law is so
    The Talmudic Source
    The source of this law is in the Talmud[1]
    (the authoritative compilation of Jewish
    law, history and theology authored 1700
    years ago) and in the Code of Jewish Law
    (known as the Shlchan Aruch).
    אמר שמואל, קול באשה ערוה, שנאמר כי קולך
    .ערב ומראך נאוה
    The Talmudic sage Shmuel said, the voice
    of a women (singing) has intimate power;
    as the verse states: your voice is sweet and
    your countenance beautiful.
    The Babylonian 2th century sage Samuel
    is referring here to the description in the
    Song of Songs where the lover talks about
    his beloved. Listen to stunning words
    straight out of our Bible:

    עָנָה דֹודִי, וְָאמַר- לִי: קּומִי לְָך -רַ עְיָתִי יָפָתִי, ּולְכִי-
    לְָך.- כִּי-הִנֵּה הַסְּתָו-, עָבָר; הַגֶּשֶׁם, חָלַף -הָלְַך לֹו.
    הַנִּצָּנִים- נִרְ אּו בָָארֶ ץ, עֵת- הַזָּמִיר הִגִּיעַ; וְקֹול -הַּתֹור,
    נִשְׁמַע בְַּארְ צֵנּו-. הַתְּאֵנָה חָנְטָה פַגֶּיהָ,- וְהַגְּפָנִים סְמָדַר
    נָתְנּו רֵ יחַ;- קּומִי לְָך רַ עְיָתִי- יָפָתִי, ּולְכִי-לְָך.- יֹונָתִי
    בְּחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע,- בְּסֵתֶר הַמַּדְרֵ גָה, הַרְ אִינִי- אֶת-מַרְ ַאיְִך,
    .הַשְׁמִיעִנִי- אֶת-קֹולְֵך כִּי-קֹולְֵך -עָרֵ ב, ּומַרְ אֵיְך נָאוֶה
    “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and
    go to yourself. For behold, the winter has
    passed; the rain is over and gone. The
    blossoms have appeared in the land, the
    time of singing has arrived, and the voice
    of the turtledove is heard in our land. The
    fig tree has put forth its green figs, and the
    vines with their tiny grapes have given
    forth their fragrance; arise, my beloved,
    my beautiful one, and go to yourself. My
    dove is in the clefts of the rock, in the
    coverture of the steps; show me your
    appearance, let me hear your voice, for
    your voice is pleasant and your appearance
    is beautiful!”
    But wait! Just open up the weekly portion,
    Beshalach, and you will notice a problem.
    No smaller a personality than Miriam, the
    older sister of Moses, and a prophetess in
    her own right—sings in front of many
    men, in the presence of her own brother
    Moses who has no qualms about her
    Here is how the Torah describes it:
    וַתִּקַּח מִרְ יָם הַנְּבִיָאה -אֲחֹות ַאהֲר ֹן אֶת- הַת ֹּף בְּיָדָּה
    וַתֵּצֶאןָ- כָל הַנָּשִׁים ַאחֲרֶ יהָ- בְּתֻפִּים ּבִמְח ֹלת. וַתַּעַן-
    לָהֶם מִרְ יָם -שִׁירּו לַה‘ כִּי -גָא ֹה גָָּאה סּוס -וְר ֹכְבֹו רָ מָה-
    Miriam the prophetess, the sister of
    Aaron, took the tambourine in her hand;
    and all the women followed her with
    tambourines and dances. And Miriam
    called to them: ‘Sing to G-d, for He is most
    exalted; horse and rider He cast in the
    Here we have it black-and-white: Days
    after their departure from Egypt, as the
    Jews cross the Red Sea, just a few weeks
    away from the Revelation at Sinai, and in
    the presence of Moses and some one
    million men—Moses’ older sister, the
    prophetess Miriam, leads all of the women
    in song. What happened to the admonition
    against women singing in public?
    To be sure, the Torah has not been given
    yet. Nonetheless, if the Torah would define
    this as immodest and inappropriate
    behavior, how is it that at such an elevated
    moment they would engage in this?[6]
    Let me share a fascinating insight by the
    Italian sage and Kabbalist Rabbi
    Menachem Azaryah of Fanu (1548—

    1620), in his book Kanfei Yona.
    The Reason for a Law
    Let’s go back a step: Why does
    Jewish law not want the man to
    hear a female sing?
    It is not because women’s singing
    is somehow not up to par or
    unholy. To the contrary, the
    feminine song has an electrifying
    power to it, it capturing her beauty,
    majesty and soulfulness. True, in
    our society we don’t pay enough homage
    to a woman singing because our over
    exposure to everything and anything often
    dulls our sensesto the sensations of intimate
    power. Whenever you are overexposed to
    something, your senses become dulled to
    the grandeur involved.
    The Torah attempts to fine-tune us to
    subtlety; to cultivate within us an
    appreciation of deep energy and soulful
    emotion, to detect the vibrations of the
    inner heart. The Torah wants us never to
    lose our sensitivity to the sensual energy
    transported in the sweet, pleasant sound of
    a woman singing. As the Song of Songs
    puts it:
    הַרְ אִינִי אֶת-מַרְ ַאיְִך,- הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת-קֹולְֵך- כִּי-קֹולְֵך
    .עָרֵ ב,- ּומַרְ אֵיְך נָאוֶה
    “Show me your appearance, let me hear
    your voice, for your voice is pleasant and
    your appearance is beautiful!”
    Own Your Intimacy
    The Torah always maintained that every
    human being, woman and man, has the
    right and duty to respect, safeguard and
    cherish their intimacy, their inner sacred
    A woman must own her inner intimate
    power; it is her secret from G-d that she
    ought to treat with the utmost dignity.
    Never should a girl or woman feel pressure
    that she needs to impress strangers through
    her body and voice. Her soul, body and
    voice belong to her alone, and no one else.
    The pressure on of so many wonderful
    people to use their most precious selves to
    entice and engage deprives them from a
    peaceful, wholesome and confident life.
    Woe to a society that indirectly teaches

    young women that their value and self-
    esteem comes when members of the

    opposite gender are infatuated by their
    physique. A woman’s beauty, like every
    person’s beauty, must be owned by her, and
    must be preserved, protected and nurtured
    with sensitivity and delicacy. It is too fine,
    too sacred, too subtle, to be pulled through

    the gutter. It is not cheap. The laws of
    Judaism focusing on modesty are not
    intended to repress the woman; they are
    intended to create an environment where
    she can be most natural and real without
    someone manipulating and misusing her
    intimacy for his selfish needs.
    Women and girls should sing; their music
    has unique energy and power. When
    women begin singing, the men ought to
    leave the room as a sign of respect toward
    the woman. The man is making the
    statement that her intimate soulfulness
    does not belong to him. Music is spiritual;
    singing comes from the soul. And if he is
    going to use her singing as a tool for his
    own physical enjoyment, never mind for a
    promiscuous thought, he is violating her
    When the Veil Was Removed
    Now we will understand why after the
    splitting of the sea Miriam and all the
    women sung out loud.
    In the song that Moses sang with the men
    before Miriam, they declared: “This is my
    Says Rashi: This is my G-d: He revealed
    Himself in His glory to them [the Israelites],
    and they pointed at Him with their finger
    [as denoted by the word:“this is my G-d”].
    By the sea, a maidservant perceived what
    prophets did not perceive.
    It was a unique moment. The inner
    spiritual core of the universe came to the
    fore. At such a moment, there is no room
    for distortion. When the presence of G-d is
    felt, when the organic unity of the universe
    is experienced, each of us experiences not
    our brute, selfish superficial self, but with
    our innate holiness and love. Then the
    intimate voice of the woman will only
    inspire people to greater moral and spiritual
    heights. Gone is the concern that someone
    will use a female voice for superficial and
    immoral pursuits. On the contrary, the
    voice of Miriam and some one million girls
    and women sublimated souls and kindled