Creation, Liberty and the Song of the Sea
"Then Moses and the Israelites will sing this song" (Exodus, chapter 15)
The moment of liberation of the Israelites from the Egyptians is declared after the great miracle of the parting of the sea – the Israelites walked on the exposed dry ground and crossed the Red Sea, followed by the Egyptian army, which drowned when the sea closed on them.
The exact moment when the Israelites realize they are finally free is captured in the beautiful verses of the "Song of the sea"; Moses and the Israelites burst into singing spontaneously when they recognize that they, after hundreds of years' enslavement in Egypt, are finally free.
The "Song of the Sea" (Shirat Hayam) is repeated in the Shacharit - the morning Tefillah – in every synagogue around the world.
When we look at the Hebrew text of "the Song of the Sea", we see that it describes that the Israelites will sing this song ("Az Yashir"). This event, which is told as something which happened in the past, contains the future verb form. Why?
Rashi - the famous rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Tanakh – says that the Torah speaks of the exact split second of liberation; One frame from the narrative of the miracle. Try to imagine a photo of the fragile moment when Moses sees the extraordinary miracle made by god and is so thrilled that he bursts into song, into creation. He has to sing, there is no other appropriate response to this moment.
Why is it written in the Torah? Why are Moses's rhymed verses included in a prayer so important that it is repeated every day? What is song, "shira"- which is also the Hebrew word for poetry?
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook – the first Chief Rabbi of 'The Yishuv' – wrote about poetry: "Poetry is not written to serve an external purpose, for it is the manifestation of the inner nature of the soul, and poems which are written with external purposes and goals lack the pure spirit of the song." True poetry, according to Rabi Kook, is the moment when the soul expresses its true nature. Kook also thinks this is true for the Hazal stories, which are also a reproduction of the aspects of the human soul.
If we look at these two interpretations, we can grasp that "the song of the sea" shows us the moment of creation, which is also a moment of liberation of the soul.
Only after the Israelites have attained freedom, can they express what was hidden in them for so long – with no rewriting and no external goal – free as a soul can be.
In every generation, every person is obligated to see themselves as if they had taken part in the Exodus of Egypt. What can we learn from the song of the sea? Do we still have these breathtaking miracles to enchant us? Are we free, or do we still need to fight for our freedom? What is the external purpose that prevents us from expressing the true nature of the soul? And can a peoplehood still burst out in a song spontaneously?
I believe that there is an unbreakable bond between creation and liberty, and I do believe we still have small-but-important miracles. I would not say that Tarbut Movement can work miracles, but I dare say that for 10 years a group of hundreds of young-adults throughout Israel is struggling to help every boy and girl, young and old, to reach those moments of creation- those "true expressions of the nature of the soul."
Tarbut wishes you a happy Passover, and may we all be liberated.
(Midrash by Jonathan Armoni, Tarbut Art Kibbutz, Nahariya)