A Sefer Torah rolled to the Song of the Sea

The Song of the Sea (Hebrew: שירת הים‎, also known as Az Yashir Moshe) is a poem which appears in the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible, at Exodus 15:1-18. The poem was reputedly sung by the Israelites after they crossed the Red Sea in safety, and celebrates the destruction of the Egyptian army during the crossing, and looks forward to their future conquest of Canaan.

The poem is included in Jewish prayer books, and recited daily in the morning shacharit services. The poem also comprises the first ode or hymn of the Eastern Orthodox canon, where it is known as the Song or Ode of Moses.[1]


The poem forms part of Parshat Beshalach. It is one of only two sections of the Sefer Torah that is written with a different layout to the normal simple columns. (see picture) The alternating words are supposed to represent the two walls of the split sea with Israel walking down the middle. (The other section written differently is Moses' song at the end of the Sefer Torah in Ha'azinu.)


The following is the Hebrew/English translation of the Song:

Ketuba of Yom Vayyosha

The Ketubá del Seten Dia de Pesah (or כתובה ליום השביעי של פסח - Ketuba Le-yom Ha-shebi`i shel Pesah) is a liturgical poem in Ladino, describing Pharaoh's defeat in the Sea of Reeds. Some Sephardic Jewish communities, at least in Turkey, sing this poem on 21 Nisan, the seventh day of Passover, known as Yom Vayyosha, "The Day of the Song of the Sea". According to Jewish tradition, this is the day on which Pharaoh's army was drowned in the Sea of Reeds, and the Israelite people sang the Song of the Sea in gratitude for this victory.

Presumably, this text is called a ketuba ("marriage contract") because the relationship between God and the Jewish people is traditionally described as a marriage, and the splitting of the sea is considered to be an important event leading to that marriage, which ultimately took place 42 days later, at Mt. Sinai.

A tune for the Ladino poem (along with the entire text itself) can be found in Isaac Levy's Anthology of Sepharadic Hazzanut.[2]

Scholarly interpretations

According to the documentary hypothesis, the Song of the Sea was at one time an independent text that came to be embedded into the Jahwist source, and then into the Torah.

According to this theory, the date of the original text is uncertain, and it may in fact be an original source for the more verbose tale that appears elsewhere in the text. The text also appears to have been included in the Elohist source, although after these texts were redacted together, only the first two lines of the Elohist copy remain, immediately after the lines from the Jahwist copy, the duplication being unnecessary.

External links


  1. The Psalter According to the Seventy (1987). Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery. ISBN 0-943405-00-9.
  2. Isaac Levy's Anthology of Sepharadic Hazzanut (Antologiya shel Hazzanut Sefaradit, 1965), vol. on the Three Festivals, p. 409, #335.

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