Beshalach is a sedra with some amazing miracles in it. The most obvious of these is the splitting of the Reed Sea, allowing all the Israelites to travel through and keep dry, followed by the sea closing over the entire Egyptian army who all died. The Egyptians’ bodies were then ejected onto the shore where Bnei Yisrael could see them, confirming the end of the Egyptian threat.
Moshe then leads the men in song, recounting what Hashem had miraculously made happen (15: 1- 19). This was swiftly followed by Miriam leading the women in, according to Rashi, the same or a very similar song, dancing with their timbrels which they had the brought from Egypt. The fact that the women had pre-packed their instruments is cited as proving their complete faith that Hashem would give them something to be happy about.
However, the sedra also points out that even with all the other miracles before the splitting of the sea, such as the pillar of cloud miraculously moving from the front of the Israelite camp to the back to obscure the Egyptians’ view and, later on, Moshe tapping the rock to bring forth fresh water when there was no other water available there are still complaints – no water, no bread, no meat.
But who exactly is complaining?
I’m sure that I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know when I state that Hebrew has gender-specific plural endings for its nouns. For example, Yeled/Y’ladim (Male Child/Children), Yaldah/Yaldot (Female Child/Children). However, if there is a mixture of boys and girls, Y’ladim (male) is used to describe them.
Yet when I hear the words describing the people who were complaining: ‘Bnei’ (Children of – male plural), Am (People of – male singular) I hear the men doing the complaining. In Chapter 16:9 when Moshe says Hashem has heard “your” complaints (T’lunotaichem), it is also expressed in the male plural.
Grammatically speaking, It’s entirely possible that the women were grumbling at home and left it to the men to complain publicly or it’s possible that the women had much more faith, as denoted by them bringing their timbrels from Egypt and were trying, without success, to calm the men down. Something for us all to think about but, this week in particular, I’m inclined to remember all the times that I wish I had listened to a woman’s advice!