Mi Chamocha

“Mi Chamocha” “on one foot”:

”Mi Chamocha” is a prayer that thanks G-d for redeeming us from Egypt. We say it in the morning and evening service, and it comes from the Book of Exodus after the Israelites crossed the Sea of Reeds.

The Text of Mi Chamocha

(יא) מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהוָ֔ה מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא׃

(11) Who is like You, O LORD, among everything which is worshipped; who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders!

(יח) יְהוָ֥ה ׀ יִמְלֹ֖ךְ לְעֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד׃
(18) The LORD will reign for ever and ever!

Context: This text comes from the Biblical Book of Exodus, after the Israelites crossed the Sea of Reeds. It is a prayer that we say every morning and evening.

What questions does this text raise for you?

(ג) עֶזְרַת אֲבותֵינוּ אַתָּה הוּא מֵעולָם. מָגֵן וּמושִׁיעַ לִבְנֵיהֶם אַחֲרֵיהֶם בְּכָל דּור וָדור. בְּרוּם עולָם מושָׁבֶךָ. וּמִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ וְצִדְקָתְךָ עַד אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ: אַשְׁרֵי אִישׁ שֶׁיִּשְׁמַע לְמִצְותֶיךָ וְתורָתְךָ וּדְבָרְךָ יָשים עַל לִבּו: אֱמֶת. אַתָּה הוּא אָדון לְעַמֶּךָ. וּמֶלֶךְ גִּבּור לָרִיב רִיבָם: אֱמֶת. אַתָּה הוּא רִאשׁון וְאַתָּה הוּא אַחֲרון. וּמִבַּלְעָדֶיךָ אֵין לָנוּ מֶלֶךְ גּואֵל וּמושִׁיעַ: מִמִּצְרַיִם גְּאַלְתָּנוּ ה' אֱלקֵינוּ. וּמִבֵּית עֲבָדִים פְּדִיתָנוּ. כָּל בְּכורֵיהֶם הָרָגְתָּ. וּבְכורְךָ גָּאָלְתָּ. וְיַם סוּף בָּקַעְתָּ. וְזֵדִים טִבַּעְתָּ. וִידִידִים הֶעֱבַרְתָּ. וַיְכַסּוּ מַיִם צָרֵיהֶם. אֶחָד מֵהֶם לא נותָר: עַל זאת שִׁבְּחוּ אֲהוּבִים וְרומְמוּ אֵל. וְנָתְנוּ יְדִידִים זְמִירות שִׁירות וְתִשְׁבָּחות. בְּרָכות וְהודָאות לְמֶּלֶךְ אֵל חַי וְקַיָּם: רָם וְנִשּא. גָּדול וְנורָא. מַשְׁפִּיל גֵּאִים. וּמַגְבִּיהַּ שְׁפָלִים. מוצִיא אֲסִירִים. וּפודֶה עֲנָוִים. וְעוזֵר דַּלִּים. וְעונֶה לְעַמּו בְּעֵת שַׁוְּעָם אֵלָיו: תְּהִלּות לְאֵל עֶלְיון. בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּמְברָךְ. משֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשרָאֵל לְךָ עָנוּ שִׁירָה בְּשמְחָה רַבָּה. וְאָמְרוּ כֻלָּם: מִי כָמכָה בָּאֵלִים ה'. מִי כָּמכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקּדֶשׁ. נורָא תְהִלּת. עשה פֶלֶא: שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים לְשִׁמְךָ עַל שפַת הַיָּם. יַחַד כֻּלָּם הודוּ וְהִמְלִיכוּ וְאְָמְרוּ: ה' יִמְלךְ לְעולָם וָעֶד: צוּר יִשרָאֵל. קוּמָה בְּעֶזְרַת יִשרָאֵל. וּפְדֵה כִנְאֻמֶךָ יְהוּדָה וְיִשרָאֵל. גּאֲלֵנוּ ה' צְבָאות שְׁמו קְדושׁ יִשרָאֵל: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', גָּאַל יִשרָאֵל:

(3) You were always the help of our ancestors, a shield for them and their children, our deliverer in every generation. Though You abide at the pinnacle of the universe, Your just decrees extend to the ends of the earth. Happy the one who obeys Your mitzvot, who takes to heart the words of Your Torah. You are, in truth, a mentor to Your people, their defender and mighty Ruler. You are first and You are last; we have no Sovereign or Redeemer but You. You rescued us from Egypt, and redeemed us from the house of bondage. The firstborn of the Egyptians were slain; Your firstborn were saved. You split the waters of the sea. The faithful You rescued; the wicked drowned. The waters engulfed Israel's enemies; not one of the arrogant remained alive. Then Your beloved sang hymns of acclamation, extolling you with psalms of adoration. They acclaimed G-d Sovereign, great and awesome Source of all blessing, the everliving G-d, exalted in all majesty. G-d humbles the proud and raises the lowly, frees the captive and redeems the meek. G-d helps the needy and answers G-d's people's call. Praises to G-d supreme, who is ever praised. Moses and the people Israel joyfully sang this song to you. "Who is like you, Adonai, among all that is worshipped! Who is, like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders!" The redeemed sang a new song for You. They sang in chorus at the shore of the sea, acclaiming Your sovereignty: "Adonai shall reign throughout all time." Rock of Israel, arise to Israel's defense. Fulfill Your promise to deliver Judah and Israel. Our Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Adonai Tz'va-ot. Praised are You, Adonai, Redeemer of the people Israel.

Context: This is the morning prayer during which we say "Mi Chamocha".

1. What does it mean to be redeemed?

2. Why are we asking for deliverance now, after singing about how G-d already delivered our ancestors?

3. Who, Jewish or not, needs to be redeemed in our world today?

4. According to Pirkei Avot 6:6, "Whoever reports a saying in the name of one who said it brings redemption to the world". Why?

5. In the Talmud (Sotah 14a), it says that we should emulate G-d's positive actions. How does that inform your reading of this prayer?

6. What are some actions you can work into your current routine based on this text from the siddur?

The Context of the Prayer

דאמר ר' שמואל בר נחמן אמר ר' יונתן מאי דכתיב (שמות יד, כ) ולא קרב זה אל זה כל הלילה באותה שעה בקשו מלאכי השרת לומר שירה לפני הקב"ה אמר להן הקב"ה מעשה ידי טובעין בים ואתם אומרים שירה לפני
The Gemara comments: As Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥman says that Rabbi Yonatan says: What is the meaning of that which is written in the passage describing the splitting of the Red Sea: “And the one came not near the other all the night” (Exodus 14:20)? At that time the ministering angels desired to recite a song before the Holy One, Blessed be He. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: My handiwork, i.e., the Egyptians, are drowning in the sea, and you are reciting a song before Me? Apparently, God is not gladdened by the downfall of the wicked.

Context: This is from the Babylonian Talmud, Masechet (Tractate) Sanhedrin, which is about criminal justice. The text is commenting on the same mishnah which says "One who saves a life saves an entire world" (4:5); this is the warning given to the witnesses in capital cases. The witnesses are told that there words could condemn an innocent person, but they could also punish the wicked and that this is OK. A Biblical verse is brought to prove that this is OK, talking about the singing that happens at the punishment of the wicked (Proverbs 11:10), but the rabbis seem to be uncomfortable with this because in the Gemara they say that while the Israelites sang after crossing the Sea of Reeds, G-d forbade the Egyptians to sing (see https://www.thejc.com/judaism/features/why-did-we-sing-when-the-egyptians-drowned-1.54039 for more on this topic). This is similar to the idea that we remove drops from our cup during the Seder when we say each of the Plagues - a full cup is a full cup of joy, and we reduce our joy at the suffering of others.

How do we balance gratitude for our salvation with an awareness that the other side also has humans on it?

(כא) וַיִּגַּ֨שׁ אֵלִיָּ֜הוּ אֶל־כָּל־הָעָ֗ם וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ עַד־מָתַ֞י אַתֶּ֣ם פֹּסְחִים֮ עַל־שְׁתֵּ֣י הַסְּעִפִּים֒ אִם־יְהוָ֤ה הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ לְכ֣וּ אַחֲרָ֔יו וְאִם־הַבַּ֖עַל לְכ֣וּ אַחֲרָ֑יו וְלֹֽא־עָנ֥וּ הָעָ֛ם אֹת֖וֹ דָּבָֽר׃

(21) Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!” But the people answered him not a word.

Context: This is from the Biblical Book of First Kings. Elijah is a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The king at that time, Ahab, has married a Phoenician princess, Jezebel. She brings to Israel the worship of the Phoenician god, Ba'al. Elijah challenges the 450 priests of Ba'al to a showdown. The whole nation gathered on Mt. Carmel, and everybody watched while first Team Ba'al got a chance to have Ba'al send down fire for a sacrifice, and then Team G-d got a chance. Ba'al doesn't respond to the priests' entreaties; mid-morning, Elijah suggests that perhaps Ba'al is on a trip or in a conversation and perhaps the priests need to get his attention. The priests respond by gashing themselves and screaming louder, but still nothing from Ba'al. By afternoon, Elijah takes over. He wets the wood and then asks G-d to prove that G-d is the one to be worshipped. G-d sends down lightening, causing not just the sacrifice but even the wood to burst into flame. Everybody responds by saying "The Lord is G-d!" (This line is now at the end of the Yom Kippur service right before the shofar.)

The ancient Israelites were monolatrous (or henotheistic), acknowledging that there were other things that were worshipped by others (and occasionally doing so themselves - see this sheet if you're interested: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/86030?lang=bi). What sorts of things do people "worship" today, rather than worshipping G-d?

(א) אָ֣ז יָשִֽׁיר־מֹשֶׁה֩ וּבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ לֵאמֹ֑ר אָשִׁ֤ירָה לַֽיהוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה ס֥וּס וְרֹכְב֖וֹ רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם׃ (ב) עָזִּ֤י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֔הּ וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִֽישׁוּעָ֑ה זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ אֱלֹהֵ֥י אָבִ֖י וַאֲרֹמְמֶֽנְהוּ׃ (ג) יְהוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֑ה יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃ (ד) מַרְכְּבֹ֥ת פַּרְעֹ֛ה וְחֵיל֖וֹ יָרָ֣ה בַיָּ֑ם וּמִבְחַ֥ר שָֽׁלִשָׁ֖יו טֻבְּע֥וּ בְיַם־סֽוּף׃ (ה) תְּהֹמֹ֖ת יְכַסְיֻ֑מוּ יָרְד֥וּ בִמְצוֹלֹ֖ת כְּמוֹ־אָֽבֶן׃ (ו) יְמִֽינְךָ֣ יְהוָ֔ה נֶאְדָּרִ֖י בַּכֹּ֑חַ יְמִֽינְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה תִּרְעַ֥ץ אוֹיֵֽב׃ (ז) וּבְרֹ֥ב גְּאוֹנְךָ֖ תַּהֲרֹ֣ס קָמֶ֑יךָ תְּשַׁלַּח֙ חֲרֹ֣נְךָ֔ יֹאכְלֵ֖מוֹ כַּקַּֽשׁ׃ (ח) וּבְר֤וּחַ אַפֶּ֙יךָ֙ נֶ֣עֶרְמוּ מַ֔יִם נִצְּב֥וּ כְמוֹ־נֵ֖ד נֹזְלִ֑ים קָֽפְא֥וּ תְהֹמֹ֖ת בְּלֶב־יָֽם׃ (ט) אָמַ֥ר אוֹיֵ֛ב אֶרְדֹּ֥ף אַשִּׂ֖יג אֲחַלֵּ֣ק שָׁלָ֑ל תִּמְלָאֵ֣מוֹ נַפְשִׁ֔י אָרִ֣יק חַרְבִּ֔י תּוֹרִישֵׁ֖מוֹ יָדִֽי׃ (י) נָשַׁ֥פְתָּ בְרוּחֲךָ֖ כִּסָּ֣מוֹ יָ֑ם צָֽלֲלוּ֙ כַּֽעוֹפֶ֔רֶת בְּמַ֖יִם אַדִּירִֽים׃ (יא) מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהוָ֔ה מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא׃ (יב) נָטִ֙יתָ֙ יְמִ֣ינְךָ֔ תִּבְלָעֵ֖מוֹ אָֽרֶץ׃ (יג) נָחִ֥יתָ בְחַסְדְּךָ֖ עַם־ז֣וּ גָּאָ֑לְתָּ נֵהַ֥לְתָּ בְעָזְּךָ֖ אֶל־נְוֵ֥ה קָדְשֶֽׁךָ׃ (יד) שָֽׁמְע֥וּ עַמִּ֖ים יִרְגָּז֑וּן חִ֣יל אָחַ֔ז יֹשְׁבֵ֖י פְּלָֽשֶׁת׃ (טו) אָ֤ז נִבְהֲלוּ֙ אַלּוּפֵ֣י אֱד֔וֹם אֵילֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב יֹֽאחֲזֵ֖מוֹ רָ֑עַד נָמֹ֕גוּ כֹּ֖ל יֹשְׁבֵ֥י כְנָֽעַן׃ (טז) תִּפֹּ֨ל עֲלֵיהֶ֤ם אֵימָ֙תָה֙ וָפַ֔חַד בִּגְדֹ֥ל זְרוֹעֲךָ֖ יִדְּמ֣וּ כָּאָ֑בֶן עַד־יַעֲבֹ֤ר עַמְּךָ֙ יְהוָ֔ה עַֽד־יַעֲבֹ֖ר עַם־ז֥וּ קָנִֽיתָ׃ (יז) תְּבִאֵ֗מוֹ וְתִטָּעֵ֙מוֹ֙ בְּהַ֣ר נַחֲלָֽתְךָ֔ מָכ֧וֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ֛ פָּעַ֖לְתָּ יְהוָ֑ה מִקְּדָ֕שׁ אֲדֹנָ֖י כּוֹנְנ֥וּ יָדֶֽיךָ׃ (יח) יְהוָ֥ה ׀ יִמְלֹ֖ךְ לְעֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד׃

(1) Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD. They said: I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea. (2) The LORD is my strength and might; He is become my deliverance. This is my God and I will enshrine Him; The God of my father, and I will exalt Him. (3) The LORD, the Warrior— LORD is His name! (4) Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; And the pick of his officers Are drowned in the Sea of Reeds. (5) The deeps covered them; They went down into the depths like a stone. (6) Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the foe! (7) In Your great triumph You break Your opponents; You send forth Your fury, it consumes them like straw. (8) At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, The floods stood straight like a wall; The deeps froze in the heart of the sea. (9) The foe said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall have its fill of them. I will bare my sword— My hand shall subdue them.” (10) You made Your wind blow, the sea covered them; They sank like lead in the majestic waters. (11) Who is like You, O LORD, among the celestials; Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in splendor, working wonders! (12) You put out Your right hand, The earth swallowed them. (13) In Your love You lead the people You redeemed; In Your strength You guide them to Your holy abode. (14) The peoples hear, they tremble; Agony grips the dwellers in Philistia. (15) Now are the clans of Edom dismayed; The tribes of Moab—trembling grips them; All the dwellers in Canaan are aghast. (16) Terror and dread descend upon them; Through the might of Your arm they are still as stone— Till Your people cross over, O LORD, Till Your people cross whom You have ransomed. (17) You will bring them and plant them in Your own mountain, The place You made to dwell in, O LORD, The sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands established. (18) The LORD will reign for ever and ever!

Context: This is from the Biblical Book of Exodus, right after the Israelites crossed the Sea of Reeds and the Egyptians drowned.

How does seeing the context change the way you think about Mi Chamocha?

Tunes for Mi Chamocha

Holiday Tunes

In Western European countries it was customary to adapt a melody associated with the holiday of the season to Mi Chamocha. For example, on Chanukkah the representative theme used for Mi Chamocha was Maoz Tzur, commemorating the truimph of the Maccabees whose name, it is believed, was composed of the initials of Mi Chamocha Be'eilim Hashem. Other melodies used on the various holidays were: for Pesach - Adir Hu; for Shavuot - Akdamut; for Sukkot - the Lulav chant in Hallel; for the Shabbatot between the fasts of Tammuz and Av - Eli Tziyon.

Source:

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer - Macy Nulman

https://headcoverings-by-devorah.com/MiKhamokha.html

Context: Mi Chamocha is a good example of the way nusach (liturgical chant) works. There are different words for the evening and morning versions (at least for the parts surrounding the actual Torah quotes), which causes problems when tunes are written for the evening words and then people try to apply them to the morning words. There are also different ways of chanting Mi Chamocha depending on whether it's a morning or evening, a weekday or Shabbat, or a Pilgrimage Festival (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot) or High Holiday (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur).

Mi Chamocha also is a good example of the way trope (Biblical cantillation) works. While one could chant it with regular Torah trope, one ought to use the special trope for the verses of The Song of the Sea that contain G-d's name. Moreover, there are different versions depending on whether one is using the Ashkenazi or Sephardi tradition, and perhaps there are other ways of chanting it as well.

Context: This is from the 1998 Dreamworks movie "The Prince of Egypt". That movie is a cinematic midrash of the story of the Exodus.

In the movie, the song is placed after leaving Egypt but before crossing the sea (instead of after crossing the sea, like in the Bible). How does that affect the meaning of the words?

Context: This is "Mi Chamocha", set to "Miriam's Song" by Debbie Friedman (here's a link to the tune that Debbie Friedman actually wrote for "Mi Chamocha" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkMznuGuj8k). After "Mi Chamocha" in the Torah, Miriam led the women in additional singing (Ex. 15:20-21), and Debbie Friedman wrote a song about it.

How does it change your experience of the prayer to have it set to this tune?

Context: This is from Nefesh Mountain, a Jewish bluegrass band (very much still active as of 2021) - http://www.nefeshmountain.com/.

What does this version make you think of? How does it make you feel?

Context: This recording in May 2020 was set to Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" (1980).

How does it change your experience of this prayer to have it set to this tune?

When Do We Say Mi Chamocha?

(ד) בַּשַּׁחַר מְבָרֵךְ שְׁתַּיִם לְפָנֶיהָ וְאַחַת לְאַחֲרֶיהָ, וּבָעֶרֶב שְׁתַּיִם לְפָנֶיהָ וּשְׁתַּיִם לְאַחֲרֶיהָ. אַחַת אֲרֻכָּה וְאַחַת קְצָרָה. ...

(4) In the morning one recites two blessings before it (the Shema) ["yotzer or" and "ahavah rabba"], and one after it ["emet veyatziv"]; in the evening two before it ["ma'ariv aravim" and “ahavat olam"] and two after it ["emet ve'emunah" and presumably "hashkiveinu"], one long and one short. ...

Context: This comes from the Mishnah, from Tractate Brachot, which is about blessings and prayers. "Emet veyatziv" and "emet ve'emunah" are the prayers that contain "Mi Chamocha".

Why would it be helpful to delineate the order of the prayers?

מֵתִיב מָר בְּרֵיהּ דְּרָבִינָא, בָּעֶרֶב מְבָרֵךְ שְׁתַּיִם לְפָנֶיהָ וּשְׁתַּיִם לְאַחֲרֶיהָ. וְאִי אָמְרַתְּ בָּעֵי לִסְמוֹךְ, הָא לָא קָא סָמֵךְ גְּאוּלָּה לִתְפִלָּה, דְּהָא בָּעֵי לְמֵימַר ״הַשְׁכִּיבֵנוּ״! אָמְרִי: כֵּיוָן דְּתַקִּינוּ רַבָּנַן ״הַשְׁכִּיבֵנוּ״ — כִּגְאוּלָּה אֲרִיכְתָּא דָּמְיָא.

According to Rabbi Yoḥanan, it is a mitzva to recite Shema before the evening prayer (Amidah). Mar, son of Ravina, raises an objection from a mishna: How can one do that? We learn in a later mishna: In the evening, one recites two blessings prior to the recitation of Shema and two blessings afterward. And if you say that one must juxtapose redemption (Mi Chamocha) to prayer (Amidah), doesn’t one fail to juxtapose redemption (Mi Chamocha) to prayer (Amidah), as one must recite: Help us lie down [hashkivenu], the blessing recited after the blessing of redemption (Mi Chamocha), which constitutes an interruption between redemption (Mi Chamocha) and prayer (Amidah)? They say in response: Since the Sages instituted the practice of reciting: Help us lie down (Hashkiveinu), it is considered one extended blessing of redemption, and therefore does not constitute an interruption.

Context: This is from the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Brachot, commenting on the very first mishnah in the Talmud. That mishnah discusses when one can say that evening Shema. In order to make sure that people don’t forget to say the evening Shema, Rabbi Yochanan says that if somebody says the evening Shema during their evening prayers, and then says the “blessing of redemption” (Mi Chamocha), and then says the Amidah, they get a spot in the World-to-Come. In our source, Mar son of Ravina points out that Hashkiveinu seems to be getting the way of this plan.

What would be the connection between Hashkiveinu and redemption?

(יז) סֵדֶר תְּפִלּוֹת כָּךְ הוּא. בַּשַּׁחַר מַשְׁכִּים אָדָם וּמְבָרֵךְ בְּרָכוֹת אֵלּוּ. וְקוֹרֵא הַזְּמִירוֹת וּמְבָרֵךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם וּלְאַחֲרֵיהֶם. וְקוֹרֵא אַחַר כָּךְ שְׁמַע וּמְבָרֵךְ לְפָנֶיהָ וּלְאַחֲרֶיהָ. וּמְדַלֵּג קְדֻשָּׁה מִן הַבְּרָכָה רִאשׁוֹנָה שֶׁלְּפָנֶיהָ שֶׁאֵין הַיָּחִיד אוֹמֵר קְדֻשָּׁה. וּכְשֶׁהוּא חוֹתֵם גָּאַל יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיָּד יַעֲמֹד כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּסְמֹךְ גְּאֻלָּה לִתְפִלָּה וּמִתְפַּלֵּל מְעֻמָּד כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ. וּכְשֶׁיַּשְׁלִים יֵשֵׁב וְיִפּל עַל פָּנָיו וּמִתְחַנֵּן וּמַגְבִּיהַּ רֹאשׁוֹ וּמִתְחַנֵּן מְעַט וְהוּא יוֹשֵׁב בְּדִבְרֵי תַּחֲנוּנִים. וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִקְרָא (תהילים קמה א) ״תְּהִלָּה לְדָוִד״ (מְיֻשָּׁב) וְיִתְחַנֵּן כְּפִי כֹּחוֹ וְיִפָּטֵר לְמַעֲשָׂיו:

(יח) וּבִתְפִלַּת הַמִּנְחָה מַתְחִיל לִקְרֹא (תהילים קמה א) ״תְּהִלָּה לְדָוִד״ מְיֻשָּׁב וְאַחַר כָּךְ עוֹמֵד וּמִתְפַּלֵּל תְּפִלַּת הַמִּנְחָה וּכְשֶׁמַּשְׁלִים נוֹפֵל עַל פָּנָיו וּמִתְחַנֵּן וּמַגְבִּיהַּ רֹאשׁוֹ וְיִתְחַנֵּן כְּפִי כֹּחוֹ וְיִפָּטֵר לְמַעֲשָׂיו. וּבִתְפִלַּת הָעֶרֶב קוֹרֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּמְבָרֵךְ לְפָנֶיהָ וּלְאַחֲרֶיהָ וְסוֹמֵךְ גְּאֻלָּה לִתְפִלָּה וּמִתְפַּלֵּל מְעֻמָּד וּכְשֶׁיַּשְׁלִים יֵשֵׁב מְעַט וְיִפָּטֵר. וְהַמִּתְחַנֵּן אַחַר תְּפִלַּת עַרְבִית הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמְּבָרֵךְ הַשְׁכִּיבֵנוּ אַחַר גָּאַל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵינָהּ הֶפְסֵק בֵּין גְּאֻלָּה לִתְפִלָּה וַהֲרֵי שְׁתֵּיהֶן כִּבְרָכָה אַחַת אֲרֻכָּה:

(17) The order of the prayers is as follows. In the morning, ...When he has concluded the blessing after the Shema, which closes with the phrase, "Who redeemedst Isael" he immediately rises, so that the reference to the Redemption may be connected with the Amidah prayer, which, as already stated by us, is recited standing. ...

(18) ... In the evening service, the worshipper reads the Shema, reciting the appropriate blessings before and after it. The blessing referring to the redemption of Israel is connected with the Amidah, which is recited, standing. ... Though the blessing concluded, "Who redeemedst Israel" is followed by the blessing beginning, "Cause us to lie down", this is not regarded as an interruption between the blessing relating to redemption and the Amidah, both blessings being regarded as one lengthy blessing.

Context: This is from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, in this case the section on Prayer, where he summarizes all of the rules in the Talmud without any of the discussion. It should look familiar from what we’ve seen already.

ואע"ג דקי"ל כר"י דאמר שצריך לסמוך אף גאולה של ערבית לתפלה של ערבית השכיבנו לא הוי הפסק דכיון דתקינו ליה רבנן כגאולה אריכתא דמיא כמו בשחרית שתיקנו להפסיק בה' שפתי תפתח וכו' פשוט בריש ברכות (ד:) כתב הר"י הטעם דהשכיבנו כגאולה אריכתא דמיא מפני שכשעבר השם לנגוף את מצרים היו מפחדים ומתפללים לשם יתברך שיקיים דברו שלא יתן המשחית לבא אל בתיהם לנגוף וכנגד אותה תפלה תקנו לומר השכיבנו הילכך מעין גאולה הוי וגם למה שאמרו שה' שפתי תפתח כתפלה אריכתא דמיא נתן טעם וכתבתיו בסימן קי"א:

In the Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan says that one needs to follow the evening G'ulah directly with the evening T'filah. We might see Hashkiveinu as a pause, but instead we should see it as an extension of the G'ulah. We should view it just like the preface "Adonai S'fatai, Open my lips," which was instituted as a part of the T'filah. We see Hashkiveinu as an extension of the G'ulah in that when G-d plagued Egypt, G-d caused a great fear upon the people [amidst the darkness]. They prayed to the Holy One, that the Angel of Death would not come to their houses to inflict death upon them. Hashkiveinu is a reminder of the fear the Israelites faced during the time of redemption; therefore it is a part of the ​G'ulah

Context: The Beit Yosef was written by Rabbi Joseph Caro in the 1500s (written between 1522 and 1542). It is his attempt to summarize and recategorize all rabbinic writings in the preceding 1300 years (starting with the Mishnah). It was a long and detailed text, and later he wrote the Cliffnotes version which he called the Shulchan Aruch. Orach Chayim is the section (of both of them) about prayers and holidays. In this part, Rabbi Caro is trying to explain why “Hashkiveinu” counts as part of the “Redemption” prayer.

There are different ways to view a prayer, all of which can co-exist simultaneously. Does this angle on the prayer resonate for you?

(א) דין סמיכת גאולה לתפלה. ובו ג סעיפים:
צריך לסמוך גאולה לתפלה ולא יפסיק ביניהם אפי' באמן אחר גאל ישראל ולא בשום פסוק חוץ מה' שפתי תפתח: הגה וי"א שמותר לענות אמן על גאל ישראל וכן נוהגין (טור) וי"א הא דצריך לסמוך גאולה לתפלה היינו דוקא בחול או ביו"ט אבל בשבת א"צ (פי' דטעמא דבעינן למסמך גאולה לתפלה משום דכתיב יענך ה' ביום צרה וסמיך ליה יהיו לרצון אמרי פי ושבת לאו זמן צרה ולענ"ד נראה דמה שאין כן ביו"ט הוא משום שהם ימי הדין כדתנן במשנה ב' פ"ק דר"ה בפסח על התבואה וכו') (הגהות אשיר"י פ"ק דברכות וכל בו הלכות שבת ומהרי"ל הל' י"ט) וטוב להחמיר אם לא במקום שצריך לכך (טור):

(1) One needs to join “redemption” to “prayer”. And he should not interrupt between them, even for the Amen after “Ga’al Yisael” and not for any verse other than “Hashem Sefosai”. COMMENT: And some say that it is permitted to respond Amen on “Ga’al Yisael”, and so is our custom. And some say that this rule to juxtapose “redemption” to “prayer” is only on a weekday or holiday. But on Shabbos he does not need to. (Meaning, that the reason that we require to juxtapose “redemption” to “prayer” I because it is written “God will answer you in a day of distress,” and near it, “Let the words of my mouth be desire … and my redeemer.” And Shabbos is not a period of distress. And in my humble opinion, this doesn’t apply on a holiday because they are days of judgement, as we learned in the Mishna in Rosh HaShana 1:2, “On Passover regarding grain…”) And it is good to be stringent unless in a place of need.

With appreciation to Sarah Fox-Long, Adam Bellows, and Cantor Neil Schwartz

Appendix: Thoughts about Mi Chamocha, found by Leo Fuchs in his source sheet "Layers of Meaning in Mi Chamocha"

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(ל) מִי כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִים | יְהֹוָה, מִי כָּמֹכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּדֶשׁ, נוֹרָא תְהִלֹּת עֹשֵׂה פֶלֶא.

(לא) שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה שִׁבְּחוּ גְאוּלִים לְשִׁמְךָ עַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם, יַחַד כֻּלָּם הוֹדוּ וְהִמְלִיכוּ וְאָמְרוּ:

(לב) יְהֹוָה יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד.

(לג) צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל קוּמָה בְּעֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל וּפְדֵה כִנְאֻמֶךָ יְהוּדָה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל גֹּאֲלֵנוּ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת שְׁמוֹ קְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה גָּאַל יִשְׂרָאֵל:

Who is like You, O God, among the gods who are worshipped?

Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders?

With new song, inspired at the shore of the Sea, the redeemed sang Your praise.

In unison the all offered thanks, acknowledging Your sovereignty they said: "Adonai will reign forever."

Rock of Israel, rise in support of Israel and redeem Judah and Israel as You promised.

Our Redeemer, Adonai Tz'vatot is Your Name.

Blessed are You, Adonai, for redeeming Israel.

(Translation as found in Mishkan T'filah for Shabbat, page 240)

Marc Brettler, My People's Prayer Book, (Vol. 1, pgs. 130-131)

[In this prayer,] grammatical tenses [are] used in a particularly significant way. [The prayer recalls God's past actions and contains commands in the present.] The climactic hope for a new Exodus, however, is given in the future ("Adonai will reign forever and ever"). This alternation of tenses reinforces the theme...that the promised new redemption will mimic the past one. Indeed, it will occur not in the distant future, but in the near present as all time periods - past, present and future - converge.

Lawrence Hoffman, My People's Prayer Book (Vol. 1, pg. 133)

...the Rabbis insist on a moral God who enters history to right wrongs and bring about a better age...[and] ruled that the righteous of all nations receive a share in the world to come.

Rachel Barenblat, How Can We Keep From Singing (https://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2019/01/how-can-i-keep-from-singing.html)

מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהֹוָ֔’’ה? מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ, נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת, עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא׃

Mi chamocha ba-eilim Adonai? Mi camocha nedar bakodesh, nora tehilot, oseh feleh!

Who is like You, God -- majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, Worker of Wonders?

...when we sing these words each day, we're called to remember. To remember the miracle of the redemption from slavery, the Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Sea. Take apart the English word remember and you get re/member -- to experience memory in the body; to re-inhabit lived experience. Singing Mi Chamocha is an opportunity to re-member liberation. To experience it again. To feel it in our bodies. To cultivate our sense of awe and trust, and from those emotions, to joyously sing.

Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat and Festivals, pg. 158

The Babylonian Talmud links this last b'rakhah of the recitation of the Sh'ma, mentioning God's redeeming the people Israel from Egypt, to the personal prayers that now follow in the Amidah, and recommends that there be no verbal interruption at this point (Berakhot 9b). It is as if to say that the possibility of prayer flows out of our experience of God's love as exhibited in freeing us from slavery.

Lawrence Kushner and Nehemia Polen, My People's Prayer Book, (Vol. 1, pg. 134)

And just this is the real meaning of Mi kamokha, “Who is like You among the gods, Adonai!” For the Kabbalists, the word mi is not an interrogative “who,” but another name for God. And ba’elim “among the gods” can also be read as bet ilan “two trees.” So now the Mi kamokha reads not as a question but as a statement: “‘Who’ [i.e., God] is two trees,” the tree of life which is Ayin, “Nothingness,” and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is yesh, “something,” ne’dar bakodesh, nora tehilot, oseh fele, “adorned in holiness, revered in praise, worker of miracles.” And when we balance our power to act, our self-assertion, our yesh, our something, with the humility of being selfless, Ayin, Nothing, then we too can perform wonders. And this is redemption.

Leo Fuchs

Perhaps in the Mi Chamocha, just before we transition to our personal prayers of request in the Amidah, we are meant not just to be grateful that we are free and that God freed us, but also to think hard about what we will do with our freedom. What will we make of the precious gift of our lives and freedom to make choices? What will we request of God during the Amidah? How do our personal prayers for ourselves and our families link to our prayers for our communities?