Michamocha Ba-elim Adonai? Mikamocha, ne-edar Bakodesh?
Who is like You among the gods, Adonai? Who is like You, majestic in holiness?
Midrash teaches us that Nachshon ben Aminadav cried out these words as he waded deeper and deeper into the Red sea. The Egyptians were coming up fast behind the Israelite people. They had two choices: walk into the sea, or turn back toward their slavemasters.
Nachshon had an incredible amount of bitachon- trust. So much so that he waded into the water, crying out his affirmation of faith in God as the water rose to his chin, then as the water rose past his lips. Once the water rose past his lips, Michamocha sounded like MiKamocha.
It was at that moment, when the water covered Nachshons airway’s that God split the sea. Nachshon, along with those who followed him into the water literally willed the sea to split. Their faith and trust was so powerful that the action of wading into the water literally created its explosion to either side.
Elana Arian’s setting of this text echoes this midrash. She opens simply, with a descending melody that sounds like a sigh. Minor chords color the melody, evocative of the cries of the Israelite people who had no place to turn. The melody repeats and this time the tempo builds, creating an intensity, and she writes the second Adonai against a major chord, creating a musical imagery and texture one might hear in Spanish or Ladino music. Mirroring the explosion of the sea separating, the main melody of her song rings out upbeat and strong, just as the Israelites must have danced and sang on the other side of the sea, now a free people.
Join me tomorrow night, and Saturday night in an incredible opportunity to sing this and many other reflective and soulful melodies with the composer herself- Elana Arian.
Cantor Lauren Adesnik
Listen to Elana’s music HERE