The parsha for today was Beshelach, and my teacher and I sang “The Song of the Sea (Shirat HaYam),” the crossing over the sea of reeds, each of us singing two aliyahs (Exodus 15:1-21). It’s the song the Israelites sang in triumph, having crossed the sea and Pharoah’s chariots and soldiers were drowned. It’s also the song that Miriam is identified as leading the women in singing with timbrels and dance after or simultaneously with Moses leading the men in the same song. This is considered to be the oldest text in the Bible. It is also one of two parts in the Torah that is visually written out differently, like the walls of the sea itself on either side and the Israelites crossing through (see above).
This was obviously a crossing over for me as well. I have always wanted to be able to decipher the mysterious code beneath the hebrew letters and, as the Torah is the key text in Judaism, chanting had always seemed to me to be a way to unlock secrets the vellum holds of the handwritten letters inside. Though I had a few stumbles as I “crossed,” I made it safely to the other side. Afterall, journeys are not supposed to be flawless. I was surprisingly nervous as I sang, not because of the people there and what they might think, but more about the awesomeness of the sacred task itself. As much as I tried to keep this whole experience low key, it was larger than I anticipated.
(Photo by MH)