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    The Song – B’shallach

    Israelites crossing the Red Sea, from a 1907 Bible card

    There are so many songs in the Tanach, but the one we read this week, from Sh’mot chapter 15, is the only one that is simply called “The Shirah” (“The Song”) without anyone misunderstanding the title.

    It’s like the rabbinic nomination of Yom Kippur as Yoma (“The Day”) and Sukkot as HeChag (“The Festival”).

    They all have a unique significance: a song above all other songs, a day above all other days, a festival above all other festivals.

    Maybe it is the same phenomenon that we find when the Torah (Num. 12:3) calls Moses HaIsh Moshe (“Moses The Man”).

    In the case of the Shirah there is a combination of emotion, history and theology to commend its title.

    Probably no other song has the feeling and excitement of this song. It vividly re-enacts the emotions of the people – will our Exodus be dashed by recapture by Pharaoh or by drowning in the sea? Will all the centuries’-long yearning for freedom come to nothing? Will God step in and save us? Will we survive and reach the Promised Land?

    There is also history; if an event can be said to be the foundation of our identity as a people it is the emergence from the Egyptian episode.

    There is theology: God is both our God and the God of our fathers, both Parent and Ruler, both zealous and long-suffering, running His world with both regular patterns and amazing miracles.

    What we celebrate in the Shirah is ourselves, our history and our God.

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