Monday, February 01, 2010

Today's head slap moment

Last week, we were discussing the Song of the Sea, and a question came up about verse 19: Is it part of the song?

As the conversation progressed, Lurker said: "Jewish tradition does not consider verse 19 to be part of the song? Then perhaps you can explain why the MT formats it as part of song, as can be seen in the Aleppo Codex, the Leningrad Codex, and every known sefer Torah extant."

My response: [This is] just proof that the Masorites thought it was part of the song. You need to tell me why they were right.

Though correct, my answer was weak. I could have made a much stronger point, which brings us to the head slapping moment of the day:

Though its true that the MT formats verse 19 as part of the song, it also formats verse 1 as part of the song!

Does anyone really think that Moshe and the Israelites stood at the side of the Red Sea and opened their song of praise with the words, "Then [or "that was when"] Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD..."

Of course not.

And if we can say that the MT formats an introductory verse as part of the song, why can't we say the same about the last verse, a verse that reads like an epilogue, has no poetic qualities  and is a mismatch with the rest of the poem as far as length, rhythm, vocabulary and emphasis?

POSTSCRIPT: Turns out this question was argued about by the Rishonim: Ibn Ezra said yes; Ramban said no

Search for more information about arguments I've won at

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