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How to Sing a Jewish Song of Redemption (2 Samuel 22)

What marks the Seventh Day of Pesach as the climax of the redemption from Egypt? It represents the day when the children of Israel departed from Egypt, crossing the sea which God had miraculously split. It is a time of celebrating the miracle of faith in God’s providence – the idea that God is intimately involved in our fate. For this reason we are taught in the Talmud (Megillah 31a): “Rav Papa said: ‘On the Seventh Day of Pesach one reads from the Torah – Parshat Beshallach (which includes the Song of the Sea) and for the Haftarah – the Song of David (in which David thanks God for saving him from his enemies)”. Rashi gives two reasons for the association between the Torah reading and Haftarah readings: 1. Both are songs; 2: The Song of David refers to the Exodus from Egypt.

Rashi’s first explanation seems rather obvious but a cursory look at the Song of David leaves us wondering on what Rashi bases his second explanation since David seems to be speaking of his own personal experiences without a word about the exodus from Egypt.

Rashi bases his interpretation on a midrash from the period of the Mishnah which finds in the following verses of David’s poem (found both in Psalms 19 and 2 Samuel 22), a description of God’s divine assistance in the most fantastic and miraculous poetic language and because of similarities to language used to describe the splitting of the sea appropriates it to describe God’s response to Moshe’s prayers for salvation at the Sea: “He set darkness as shelters around Him, a massing of waters, the clouds of the sky. From the radiance before Him, hailstones and coals blazed. The Lord from the heavens thundered, the Most High sent forth His voice. He let loose arrows and routed them, lighting and struck them with panic. The channels of the sea were exposed, the world’s foundations laid bare, by the Lord’s roaring…” (Psalms 18:12-16; See parallel – 2 Samuel 22:12-16)

Here is the midrashic take on these verses: “At the moment when Moshe prayed, God caused the Children of Israel to see an army of angels standing before them to protect them against the onslaught of the Egyptian army. And so, it says: “At the radiance before Him, there passed through His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire” (Psalms 18:13; See 2 Samuel 22:13) – “His thick clouds” to protect against the troops of the Egyptians; “hailstones” to protect against their catapults; “coals” against their missiles…. “The Lord from the heavens thundered” (verse 14) – against the rattling of their shields and the noise of their trampling shoes…”   (Mechilta deRabbi Ishmael, B’shallach 3, Horowitz-Rabin ed. p. 95))

These associations remind us of some of the fantastic imagery we saw at the seder. What are we to make of the interpretations and allusions which seem to veer from the simple meaning of David’s prayer? The answer to this question tells us something crucial about the Jewish way of looking at the world. When Jews see the redeeming hand of God, they see it through the prism of the redemption from Egypt. And so, David’s redemption becomes Moshe’s redemption which becomes the redemption of the Jewish people in every generation. For each of us when we experience God’s hand in our lives, we can see it, as it were, as the “splitting of the sea”. Can there be anything greater to sing about!

About the Author
Mordechai Silverstein is a teacher of Torah who has lived in Jerusalem for over 30 years. He specializes in helping people build personalized Torah study programs.
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