After their salvation from Galus Miztrayim and the mighty display of HaShem’s Hand at Krias Yam Suf, Moshe Rebbeinu lead the men in singing Az Yashir, a song of praises to HaShem. When the men had finished, the women followed Miriam HaNavia with drums and dances to a song of their own.
וַתִּקַּח מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן, אֶת-הַתֹּף–בְּיָדָהּ; וַתֵּצֶאןָ כָל-הַנָּשִׁים אַחֲרֶיהָ, בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלֹת
And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. (Shemos 15:20)
There is a well-known Rashi on this possuk that is worth repeating here:
מובטחות היו צדקניות שבדור שהקדוש ברוך הוא עושה להם נסים והוציאו תופים ממצרים
The righteous women of that generation were so certain that the Holy One, blessed be He, would perform miracles for them, that they took timbrels out of Egypt [in order to use them to sing praises to HaShem].
That the Jewish women in Egypt could come to such a level is both amazing and inspiring. But, how did they get there in the first place?
There could be a hint to part of the answer within the possuk itself.
The word תֻפִּים comes from the word לתפף, which means striking or knocking, and the word מְחֹלֹת is related to the word מחלה or infirmity and illness.
Throughout the Egyptian exile, the women realized that in all their sorrows HaShem was right there with them, sharing in their distress. They understood that the nisyonis themselves were meant to bring them closer to their spiritual potential- both on a personal and national level.
After Krias Yam Suf, they didn’t just follow Miriam with drums and dances. These women brought with them all that they had experienced in Egypt- all the pain and tears, all the setbacks and daily struggles along the way. These experiences were precious to them. It was in those darkest moments, when they felt knocked down and sick with sorrow, that they found HaShem, and with that knowledge they were able to rise above the encroaching darkness and depression that surrounded them.
As the cornerstone of the Jewish home that was being targeted for destruction, the women no doubt felt the period of Egyptian servitude and harsh decrees more keenly than the men. The women’s greatness was that they were able to see and focus on the light of HaShem- even in the darkness and despair. The Midrash recounts many displays of HaShem’s compassion and Guiding Hand. He was visible to anyone who sought to find Him.
In the bleakest moments, the women strengthened themselves, stood their ground, and never lost sight of their goal. In the end, they were not only rewarded with a personal geula, but with a simcha that far surpassed that of the men. These righteous Jewish women were dancing and singing praises to HaShem with the simcha of knowing that davkah because they had struggled through such incredible hardships were they able reach such incredible heights.