The Song of the Sea ~ The Week's End (February 3, 2023)
Feb 1st 2023

The Song of the Sea (Shirat Hayam, Exodus 15) is chanted publicly from the Torah twice a year on Shabbat Shirah (Parashat Beshallaẖ) and on the seventh day of Passover. It is also recited publicly in our morning prayers every day of the year in the Preliminary Service. Shortly after Shirat Hayam, we say the following between the Shema and the private devotion of the Amidah:

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים לְשִׁמְךָ עַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם. יַֽחַד כֻּלָּם הוֹדוּ וְהִמְלִֽיכוּ וְאָמְרוּ. ה' יִמְלֹךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

The redeemed sang a new song for You. They sang in chorus at the shore of the sea, acclaiming your sovereignty [quoting the final verse of Exodus 15}: Adonai shall reign throughout all time. Our past and our future hopes for both communal and personal redemption are intertwined in public and private prayer. For the generation of the exodus Shirat Hayam was a new song.  For us it is a song of renewal and strength.

In the 12th century, the Jewish physician, poet and philosopher Rabbi Judah Halevi wrote a famous liturgical poem (piyyut) called “Yom Le-Yabasha” — “The Day Turned to Dry Land”. (An alternate beginning in some versions is “Yam Le-Yabasha” — “The Sea Turned to Dry Land”.) This piyyut is recited just prior to the Shaẖarit Amidah on the seventh day of Pesaẖ. In some communities, it is likewise chanted on Shabbat Shirah prior to the Amidah, or as a table song (zemer). It is also recited prior to Birkat Hamazon on the occasion of a circumcision. (See the fifth and sixth stanzas.)

The poem is a brilliant weaving of many catch-words and phrases which connect biblical stories of redemption to crossing of the Red Sea. Many of the phrases are taken from Shir Ha-Shirim, Song of Songs, the original song of the Jewish people’s longing, love and yearning for a renewed, redemptive relationship with our Creator. The refrain שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים  appears at the end of each of the eight verses.

There are a number of professional versions of music to this piyyut. Many years ago, I learned a simple repetitive tune for this, which you can listen to here: Click here>>

The full Hebrew and English text of the poem is below.

Shabbat Shalom. 

יוֹם לְיַבָּשָׁה נֶהֶפְכוּ מְצוּלִים Yom Layabasha  — 

This liturgical poem, composed by the 12 century master of liturgical poetry Rabbi Judah Halevi (Spain) is recited just prior to the Shaharit Amidah on the seventh day of Pesah. In some communities it is likewise chanted on Shabbat Shirah prior to the or as a table song (zemer). It is recited prior to Birkat Hamazon on the occasion of a circumcision. (See the fifth and sixth stanzas.)

יוֹם לְיַבָּשָׁה נֶהֶפְכוּ מְצוּלִים. שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

The day the depths turned to dry land, the redeemed ones sang a new song.

הִטְבַּֽעְתָּ בְּתַרְמִית, רַגְלֵי בַּת עֲנָמִית. וּפַעֲמֵי שׁוּלַמִּית, יָפוּ בַּנְּעָלִים.

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

Because of her deceitfulness, You caused the Anamite daughter’s feet to sink, but the footsteps of the wholesome one were beautiful in shoes,

The redeemed ones sang a new song.

וְכׇל־רוֹאַי יָשִׁירוּן, בְּבֵית הוֹדִי יְשֹׁרְרוּן. אֵין כָּאֵל יְשׁוּרוּן, וְאוֹיְבֵֽינוּ פְּלִילִים.

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

All who see Jeshurun will sing in My Majestic Home: ‘There is none like the God of Jeshurun’, and our enemies are judged. The redeemed ones sang a new song.

דְּגָלַי כֵּן תָּרִים, עַל הַנִּשְׁאָרִים. וּתְלַקֵּט נִפְזָרִים, כִּמְלַקֵּט שִׁבֳּלִים.

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

May You raise my banners over the survivors, and may You gather the scattered ones as one gathers sheaves. The redeemed ones sang a new song.

הַבָּאִים עִמְּךָ, בִּבְרִית חוֹתָמְךָ. וּמִבֶּֽטֶן לְשִׁמְךָ, הֵמָּה נִמּוֹלִים.

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

Those who come with You into the covenant of Your seal, and from the womb they are circumcised for Your name’s sake. The redeemed ones sang a new song.

הֶרְאוּ אוֹתוֹתָם, לְכׇל־רוֹאֵי אוֹתָם. וְעַל כַּנְפֵי כְסוּתָם, יַעֲשׂוּ גְּדִילִים. שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

Display their signs to all who see them, and on the corners of their garments they will make fringes. The redeemed ones sang a new song.

לְמִי זֹאת נִרְשֶׁמֶת? הַכֶּר נָא דְבַר אֱמֶת. לְמִי הַחוֹתֶמֶת, וּלְמִי הַפְּתִילִים. שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

Whose is this [Torah], inscribed with commandments? Please recognize the truth. Whose is the signet [ring] and whose are the threads? The redeemed ones sang a new song.

וְשׁוּב שֵׁנִית לְקַדְּשָׁהּ, וְאַל תּוֹסִיף לְגָרְשָׁהּ. וְהַעֲלֵה אוֹר שִׁמְשָׁהּ, וְנָסוּ הַצְּלָלִים. שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

Bethroth her again, and drive her out no more, let her sunlight rise and let the shadows flee. The redeemed ones sang a new song.

יְדִידִים רוֹמְמוּךָ, בְּשִׁירָה קִדְּמֽוּךָ. מִי כָמֹֽכָה, יהוה בָּאֵלִים?

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים:

The beloved one’s exalt You, with song the come and greet You, Who is like you Adonai, among the mighty ones? The redeemed ones sang a new song.

בִּגְלַל אָבוֹת תּוֹשִׁיעַ בָּנִים, וְתָבִיא גְאֻלָּה לִבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם:

For the sake of the forefathers may You save the offspring, and bring redemption to their children’s children.