Thursday, January 29, 2015

the relationship between shirah and yetzi'as Mitzrayim

Was the shirah a song of thanks for the particular miracle that occurred at Yam Suf, or was it a song of thanks for the culmination of the redemption from Egyptian bondage?

Or to put in another way, was the destruction of Egypt at Yam Suf the final chapter of the process of geulah, an 11th makkah, so to speak, and Bnei Yisrael now sang a shirah to celebrate the close of that book, or was it the first chapter in the history of the newly freed Am Yisrael?
The Meshech Chochma in last week’s parsha takes note of the fact that Bnei Yisrael were commanded to make the seventh day of Pesach a “mikra kodesh” even before the events of Yam Suf occurred.  He suggests that the Torah is teaching us a moral lesson: we don’t celebrate or commemorate the downfall of our enemies.  There would have been a seventh day of Pesach irrespective of the death of the Egyptians at Yam Suf – that was not the impetus for our making the day a holiday.  But aside from that moral lesson, perhaps the fact that the Torah commands us to make a seventh day of Pesach already on the 14th of Nissan points to the fact that the days have a shared theme.  We do not recite she’hechiyanu on the Yom Tov of shevi’I shel Pesach and the hallel is a half hallel, not a full hallel like on other Yamim Tovim.

The gemara (Meg 14) learns the chiyuv of reading megillah from a kal v’chomer: if Klal Yisrael sang shirah when they went from slavery to freedom, certainly they should recite shirah to commemorate being saved from death.  What shirah is the gemara talking about?  I think most of us would learn the gemara exactly as Rashi does: “b’yetzi’as Mitzrayim amru shirah al ha’yam.” The Turei Even, however, is not happy with that pshat.  Isn’t the shirah of Yam Suf itself a shirah about being saved from death, not a shirah about being freed from slavery? 
It sounds like the Turei Even’s question gets to the heart of the chakirah we raised.  It seems that Rashi must have learned that the shiras hayam is the culmination of the story of yetzi’as Mitzrayim, not a new chapter.  Perhaps should have sung shirah on 15 Nissan to celebrate our freedom, but the redemption at that point was still an unfolding process, and so we waited until its completion at Yam Suf. The fact that our lives may have been in danger at Yam Suf is a detail, but the larger picture is still one of deliverance from bondage and slavery. 

The Magen Avraham (O.C. 67) writes that one is yotzei the mitzvah of zechiras yetzi’as Mitzrayim by reciting shiras ha’yam but R’ Akiva Eiger and others disagree.  According to the MG”A , shiras ha’yam goes hand in hand with yetzi’as Mitzrayim and is not simply an expression of thanks for the particular miracle of Yam Suf.  It could be that R’ Akiva Eiger disagrees fundamentally with that point, or it could be that R’ Akiva Eiger holds that even if shirah is linked to the theme of freedom from Egypt, since there is no explicit mention of that redemption in the shirah, it is not a sufficient zecher for the sake of the mitzvah. 


  1. We say שירה חדשה שבחו גאולים לשמך על שפת הים, so it sounds like they weren't truly free until they saw the Egyptians dead.

    1. Geulim = newly freed, not necessarily that this was the makeh b'patish.
      Also, don't you find the term 'geulah' used in the context of being saved from danger? So maybe geulim refers to being saved from the danger at Yam Suf itself.

  2. See Torah Temima on Yisro - Baruch Hashem asher hitzil, gemara says it's gnai for Moshe and Bnai Yisrael that didn't say Baruch until then, Torah Temima asks what about shiras hayam, one of his answers is that was only on the krias yam suf and not yetzias mitzrayim as a whole.