Shabbat Shirah

Last weekend we read in synagogue a section of Torah that is called Shabbat Shirah

(שַׁבָּת שִׁירָה). This name is another name for the weekly portion Beshalach. When you joyously celebrate Shabbat, this is certainly one of the more notable ones – it’s a Shabbat so so joyful that the melodies of it will continue to ring in your ears for days after.

This Shabbat usually falls very early in the year and is often close to Tu Bishvat, as it was this year.Two central songs in the Hebrew Bible are sung in this Shabbat- the Song of the Sea – שירת הים- and the Song of Deborah- שירת דבורה.

Reading Torah

The first song is found in the portion itself and the second is found in the “Haftarah” – a passage from the prophets that is read publicly in the synagogue on Shabbat.

These two songs describe two important victories in the history of the Israelites.The first celebrates the victory over the Egyptians after the Exile, while the second was sung as the Israelites defended their land. You can hear a beautiful rendering of these songs here –

In this portion there’s another story about the falling of Manna from Heaven. There’s a custom to scatter seeds for the birds, in memory of the birds that enjoyed the Manna on Shabbat instead of the People of Israel.

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