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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Just for a Moment

Updated: Jan 24

The Song of the Sea is recalled each morning when the congregation rises and sings aloud its words. God is declared powerful, a God of war and victory. The Israelites have just crossed over the sea and seemingly in the same moment they are both traumatized and full of awe. Within minutes or hours they will begin their trek through the desert and yes, they will begin their series of complaints to return to the life they had known in Eygpt. For much of the remainder of the parshiyot in torah we will see this people struggle with who they are, their relationship to God and to leadership. We will see them complain mightily, rebel and fail over and over again. For now, though, we are there with them on the shore of the sea.

We can see in their faces that they have experienced the power of God as this knowledge settles into them.

A few days ago I listened to a the Pardes podcast from Jerusalem where Judy Klitsner discussed Shirat Hayam (see the link below). She spoke about the specific form of the poem and about the roominess created by the spaces between the words as we read and listen to this memorable piece. I was inspired to write this week's poem in those spaces, to give a mindset of where B'nei Yisrael has been and where they are going.

I took a poetry class a few months ago and my teacher said that most poets have only one poem that they repeat over and over again in many different formats. After writing many poems on this blog site, I agree with this. I think that my one poem is to concentrate on the spaces between the words, in the moments between actions and I am happy to find the opportunity to express this poem in this way.

What is your poem? I leave you with that to think about.

Please, may the seas open soon and may there be miracles once again.


PS I wrote this to be seen on a computer. I realize that many of you view this on your phones and apologize that the print is small. I hope you will consider viewing this on a home computer.

About the Structure of Shirat Hayam by Rav Michael Hattin on the Torat Har Etzion website



            The Rabbis of the Talmud referred to this graphic form in the following passage:


Rabbi Chanina bar Papa said: Rav Sheila of Kefar Timrata expounded that all of the passages of Biblical song are written as 'half bricks arranged upon whole bricks' and 'whole bricks arranged upon half bricks.'  The exceptions to the rule are the list of the rogue Haman's ten sons (Esther 9:6-9) and the list of the kings of Canaan, for they are composed as half bricks arranged upon half bricks, and whole bricks upon whole bricks.  What is the reason for the distinction?  So that they should have no resurgence from their downfall (Talmud Bavli Megilla 16b). 


Rav Sheila means to say that each line of the song is divided into a stitch of text ('half brick') that is then separated by a blank space ('whole brick') from the concluding stitch of text, while the next line of song inverts the sequence, like this:


Then   Moshe   and    the    people    of    Israel   sang    this    song    to    God   and   they

said:                 I will sing out to God for He was triumphant,        horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea!                                               My strength and song are God, He is my salvation,                    this is my Lord and I will glorify Him,                the Lord of my ancestors and I shall exalt Him.                           God is a man of war, God is His name.                          Pharaoh's chariots and his host He cast into the sea,                  his choicest captains have been drowned in the sea of reeds…


The overall effect of the technique is to create an appearance of stacked elements, as each line of text sits solidly above a space and each space above a line.  The commentaries regarded the visual impact of the form as suggesting unusual stability, like a section of wall that had been solidly constructed by alternating its successive layers of bricks.  They interpreted the graphic structure literally, as an expression of the enduring permanence or truth of the song's message. 


Link to Pardes of Jerusalem's episode on Parshat Beshalach


 אָשִׁ֤ירָה לַֽיהֹוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה

Exodus 15:1

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Jan 25

I love this, Leann, both visually and poetically!🩷


Jan 23

Leann, I loved the way you put your poem in between the verses!

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