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Torah Commentary
Conclusion of Passover (April 14, 2012)

Rabbi David M. Posner

INCLUDED IN THE PENTATEUCHAL reading for the seventh day of Passover are two songs that virtually have coalesced into one. The first is the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19); the second is the Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:20-21).

The Song of Miriam seems to be the older of the two: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.” This is a plain, terse and simple description of the Red Sea salvation.

The Song of Moses, however, when read completely, reveals itself to be a fuller description of Israelite history, even alluding to the first Jerusalem Temple:

The peoples have heard, they tremble; pangs have seized on the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling seizes them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of Thy arm, they are as still as a stone, till Thy people, O Lord, pass by, till the people pass by whom Thou hast purchased. Thou wilt bring them in and plant them on Thy own mountain, the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thy abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.

Because of these concluding words, we may propose that this song recounts this history of Israel up to the era of Solomon (970-930 BCE), and we may conclude reasonably that it was written at that time. In other words, it is indeed very ancient, by any stretch of the imagination.

Imagination aside, the Hebrew language itself employed by the poem is of a very archaic nature, somewhat different from standard classical Hebrew. Given both the power and the buoyancy of the poem, we may conclude that it had its origin in the heroic age of King David. How deep are our roots in Jerusalem!

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