A fierce wind plowed the sea, piling a wall of water to either side of a seabed blown dry. Miraculously, there was stable footing for weary slaves—notwithstanding the wind that the sea itself could not withstand.
Wind, walls of water, dry ground: These are the elemental facts of the story told in Exodus 14. But facts are not the whole truth.
Facts conceal the sea, said the Hebrew poet, Zelda. Facts are a wall around the “I.”
“I” enter the sea through the Song of Exodus 15, in which similes remove the wall around the “I.” In the Song, there is no wall of water. The water is like a mound of some sort that I am free to imagine. Like invites me into a sea of personal imagination. More than the story shared by all, the Song invites the moment lived by me.
The Song splits the facts as the “I” witness begins to cross the sea with personal amazement, terror, awe, or dread as Israel triumphs and Egypt tumbles. That water—the likes of which I have never seen before—protects me until the awe-full moment when, according to the Song, enemies sink like a stone, like lead; they are consumed like straw.
Like quickens my pulse.
No simile—no like—unites every “I” except for one. Not a simile-declaration of the comparable, but of the incomparable: Who is like you among the mighty?!
The story of Exodus 14 has no similes. But the Song, with its invitations to personal comparisons, invites the “I” witness. According to tradition, the seventh day of Passover is the very day of crossing the sea. That day’s Torah reading contains both the story and the Song. But it is only for the Song that we rise.