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Megillat HaY’shuah (the salvation scroll)

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shirat hayam
(song of the sea)

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

Perhaps the most striking visual effect in the Torah is that created by the sofer to write Moses's poem - shirat hayam - the song at the sea. (Exodus 15:1-18).

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Right: shirat hayam from a very small Torah - only 10 inches high.

The song itself commemorates the Israelites miraculous escape from the pursuing Egyptian army and a full translation is given below. The miracle was the dividing of the reed sea for the Israelites who were able to walk through unharmed. The imagery (much beloved in movies) conjures up two solid walls of water either side of the fleeing Israelites and this is echoed by the brick like formation* of the poem creating its own walls. The song must be written in 30 lines and must be laid out as shown with no deviations or the scroll is pasul (invalid).

*the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31) used as the haftarah for 1st day Pesach when shirat hayam is read and the portion read on the 7th day Samuel II 22:1-51) are also written in the brick-like format.

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Exodus 15:1-18 - translation
1. Then sang Moses and the people of Israel this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea.
2. The Lord is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation; he is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.3. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
4. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army has he thrown into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.5. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom as a stone.
6. Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power; your right hand, O Lord, has dashed in pieces the enemy.
7. And in the greatness of your excellency you have overthrown those that rose up against you; you sent forth your anger, which consumed them as stubble.
8. And with the blast of your nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as a heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
9. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the plunder; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
10. You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
11. Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
12. You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them.
13. You in your mercy have led forth the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation.
14. The people shall hear, and be afraid; sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Philistia.
15. Then the chiefs of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
16. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of your arm they shall be as still as a stone; till your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, whom you have purchased.
17. You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which you have made for you to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18. The Lord shall reign forever and ever.

Mordechai Pinchas

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