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PARSHA PONDERINGS-BESHALACH

HOLD YOUR HORSES

אשירה לד’ כי גאה גאה סוס ורוכבו רמה בים

I shall sing to God for exalted has He, horse and its rider He cast in the sea

God had just performed the the greatest miracle of all time, splitting a raging sea, allowing an entire nation of besieged nomads dry passage, and subsequently sinking the world’s greatest empire both literally and figuratively in the very waters which had stood obediently by mere moments earlier. The Israelites, both as witnesses to and beneficiaries of this nature-defying Godly intervention, broke into poetic praise, for prosaic platitudes simply lacked the capacity to properly encapsulate their depth of emotion. Led by their prophet Moshe, they began thus:

I shall sing to God for exalted has He, horse and its rider He cast in the sea.

While the Song of the Sea goes on to describe the events of the day in vivid superlative fashion, one can’t help but wonder how this opening stanza does justice to what follows thereafter. Horse and its rider He cast in the sea? Was that truly one of the most remarkable aspects of this event? Does that somehow supersede the miraculous splitting of the sea itself? Indeed, is casting horse and rider in the sea necessarily supernatural altogether? And why not at least identify the horse and rider as the great empire of Egypt, thus lending some element of import to an otherwise entirely unremarkable occurrence?

It seems obvious that there is more to this verse than meets the eye. Indeed, under closer scrutiny the very term “horse and its rider” becomes difficult to understand. Wouldn’t the affiliation between horse and rider be better described as “man and his horse”, rather than what amounts to “horse and his man”?

Apparently not. Or at least not in this context.

Moshe, you see, sought to capture the very essence of what it was that God had accomplished at the Splitting of the Sea. God had taken the nation of “horse and its rider”- an Egypt which had allowed its animalistic side to define its course, an Egypt which had taken its exalted human soul and demoted it to the status of its lowly body’s rider, to be dragged along the erratic path chosen by its baser elements,- and cast it in the sea. No longer would world civilization be dominated by a nation which was itself dominated by the animal within. Quite the contrary. It was time to hand over the reins to a nation which would make use of those reins to rein in the wild mule of physicality and force it along the path dictated by the logic and faith of its Godly equestrian.

As the song concludes: When the horse of Pharaoh and his chariots and horsemen came into the sea God turned back the waters of the sea upon them, the Israelites walked on the dry land amid the sea.

While the horse-following Egyptians were cast in the sea, the Israelites were blessed with an even deeper dimension of anti-Egyptianism: Not only would they be capable of overcoming physicality and defining their own course under normal circumstances, they would now be capable of forever finding dry land upon which to trot in even the stormiest of seas.

Even when the Jew finds himself faced with a situation in which self-navigation seems all but impossible, dwarfed by waves of physicality which seem unstoppable in their quest to toss him whichever way they so please, he can yet find dry land upon which he is the ultimate master of his own destiny.

Our horse may indeed be out of the stable, yet we retain the power to stabilize our horse.

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