Thursday, May 1, 2014

Exodus: Chapter 15

 from the depths
to the far reaches

The heart of the deeps

The breathing wind

What do your
own hands do?

The shifting gifts
of the salty seas

make walls of water
to walls of stone

[For full chapter, click here
The Song of the Sea--a poetic response to the Exodus recapitulates in succinct symbol the central components of the process:
The identification of God by name; while seeing him within the context of a reverberating relationship: "the God of my fathers"--a reiteration of God's initial exchange with Moses.
anger--first God's at Moses' for his hesitance, then  Moses' and Pharaoh for his intransigence
wind--the repeated, portentous eastern wind that brought the frogs, and the locusts, and split the sea becomes the "breath" of God's "nostrils"
the focus on "standing"--the repeated order given to Moses; on the heart; on the "hand"; on sending forth; on spoil.
The binding together of all the elements of redemption is empowering. The enslaved children of Israel become, in the course of the song, a nation among the nations:
"You have guided in your love, this nation have You redeemed" "Till Your nation passes forth, till this nation that You possessed/created [kaniya] passes." No longer have they simply "left", in song they have already arrived, have already established the Temple. Past and future conflate into a single reality--a reality perhaps best expressed in the circles (mehol) of dancing women, led by "Miriam the prophetess."
Yet the redeeming salt seas take on an ominous cast at the closing of the chapter, when the children of Israel are unable to drink because the water is salty(marim)--a play on the singing Miriam's name. A cast tree renders the water drinkable, but the  path from exodus to full redemption is no longer so simple. What has hurt Egypt can hurt Israel as well. They must not be like Pharaoh, who refuses to listen and see. "If you will listen... and do what is just in God's eyes, all the disease that I put on Egypt I will not put on you"
The chapter closes with the comforting arrival at Eilim, with its twelve springs of water, one for each tribe. Water once again is a source of blessing]

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