The Seventh Day of Pesah celebrates the splitting of the sea. This miracle even was so joyous that it called for song. Song is a celebration of a poetic outlook – of seeing things in a different way – of having a changed perspective. Too often we moderns get caught up in seeing the world through “empirical eyeglasses” which render us incapable of seeing or understanding things in any other way. Scripture challenges us to see the sea split and mountains dancing at God’s behest, to experience the awesome and to open to wonder. We are enjoined to experience metaphor and to subject ourselves to this different reality – a poetic reality.
The book of Samuel opens with the poem of a mother, Hannah, who sings God’s praises in her “victorious” triumph over her painful childlessness and it ends with a poem of a triumphant king, David, praising God for his great victories over his and Israel’s enemies. The former song marks the haftarah for the First Day of Rosh Hashanah and the later heralds the haftarah for the Seventh Day of Pesah. Hannah’s song is one of thankfulness over being remembered by God and David’s is one of gratitude over being redeemed. David, a political leader, who obviously had to view the world realistically, was also capable of reflecting on his life through the eyes of a poet. This uncommon ability is likely what brought the sages to link his song with that of the children of Israel reflecting on their experience at the sea.
David was no stranger to existential threats and in his poem of triumph, these threats were viewed in cosmic terms. His enemies were no mere mortals and his victories over them involved the forces of nature acting at God’s behest: “The Lord is my crag and fortress and my own deliverer… For the breakers of death beset me; the underworld’s torrents dismayed me… In my strait I called to the Lord, to my God I called, and from His Palace He heard my voice, my cry in His ears. The earth heaved and quaked, the heavens’ foundation shuddered, they heaved for He was incensed… The Lord from the heavens thundered, the Most High sent forth His voice. He let loose arrows and routed them, lightning and struck them with panic…” (22:2;5;7-8;14-15)
The language of this poem enjoins us to see the events of life in anything but banal terms and to use poetry as a means for expressing the significance of being alive. It is also a clarion call to sense the involvement of God in our lives and to be sensitive to more than just empirical reality. Above all, and this is perhaps the most important message of this last day of Pesah, we should not be afraid to sing out our thankfulness for the redemptive events in our lives, the lives of families, our people, and the world.