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This week Daniel and Karl are joined by Cantor Cheryl Wunch, calling in from Toronto to sing portions of Chapter 15 of Exodus, answer all of Karl’s questions about cantors in general, and reflect on (of course) the nature of God and humanity.

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Exodus 15

(Talmud and Rashi, Sotah 30b) Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to G‑d, and they spoke, saying . . . (15:1)

How did they render the song? Rabbi Akiva says: Moses said “I will sing to G‑d,” and they responded “I will sing to G‑d”; Moses said “For He has triumphed gloriously,” and they responded “I will sing to G‑d” (and so on with each verse—Moses would sing a phrase, and they would respond with the refrain “I will sing to G‑d”).

Rabbi Eliezer says: Moses said “I will sing to G‑d,” and they responded “I will sing to G‑d”; Moses said “For He has triumphed gloriously,” and they responded “For He has triumphed gloriously” (and so on—they repeated each phrase after Moses).

Rabbi Nechemiah says: Moses sang the opening words of the song, after which they each sang it on their own.

 

(Talmud, Sotah 30b) This is my G‑d (15:2)

At the time the Israelites ascended from the Red Sea . . . the baby sat upon his mother’s knee, and the suckling sucked at his mother’s breast. When they beheld the Divine Presence, the baby raised his neck and the suckling released the nipple from his mouth, and they exclaimed: “This is my G‑d and I will praise Him” . . . Even the embryos in their mothers’ wombs uttered a song . . .

 

(Mechilta) A servant girl saw at the sea what Isaiah, Ezekiel and all the other prophets did not behold.

 

(Talmud, Ketubot 5a) In the seat of Your dwelling, O G‑d, which You have made; in the sanctuary, O G‑d, which Your hands have established (15:17)

The work of the righteous is greater than the work of heaven and earth. For in regard to the creation of heaven and earth it is written (Isaiah 48:13): “My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has spread out the heavens” (“My hand,” in the singular). But in regard to the work of the hands of the righteous it is written, “In the sanctuary, O G‑d, which Your hands have established” (“Your hands,” in the plural).

 

(Mechilta; Rashi) Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dances (15:20)

How did the Israelites have tambourines in the desert? But the righteous women of that generation were certain that G‑d would perform miracles for them, and they prepared tambourines and dances while still in Egypt.

 

(Chassidic saying) They could not drink of the waters of Marah, because they were bitter (15:23)

Because they—the children of Israel—were bitter, everything they tasted was bitter to them.

 

(Talmud, Sanhedrin 56b) There He made for them a statute and a law (15:25)

The Israelites were given ten precepts at Marah: the seven which had already been accepted by the children of Noah, to which were added at Marah social laws, the Sabbath, and honoring one’s parents.

 

(Malbim) All the diseases which I have brought upon Egypt, I shall not bring upon you, for I am G‑d your healer (15:26)

I shall never afflict you with the intent to merely punish, as I did the Egyptians. Rather, “I am G‑d your healer”—if I do cause you suffering, it is only to a positive end, like a doctor who may at times cause pain to his patient in order to heal him.