Singing Embryos?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

A friend wished to learn the meaning of the metaphor, “Even embryos sang to God” after He drowned the Egyptians, their horses, riders and chariots in the Reed Sea (Brachos 50a).

The keys to deciphering the Rabbis’ riddles and metaphors are in their very words. Here, the unique elements are embryos and the Reed Sea miracle, where God triumphed over the Egyptian army. Embryos can’t sing, so we must explore what embryos represent. And there was no song after God smote Egypt with 10 plagues, so what existed at the Reed Sea and not elsewhere? We can also examine the very song for clues.

At the Reed Sea, God saved us from the most valiant and invincible power: Egypt’s army and her chariots. Rashi (Exod. 14:10) says the Jews saw Egypt's “guardian officer” traveling from heaven to strengthen them. This metaphor means that the Jews viewed Egypt as invincible, as if empowered by heaven, the strongest force. At the sea, God conquered Egypt: the Jews’ feared and powerful authority. God now became the Jews’ hero. But the hero emotion—“ga-oh, ga-ah”—did not emerge through the plagues; there was no song at the conclusion of the 10 plagues. 

So significant was God's victorious decimation of Egypt’s horse, rider and chariot, that the Shira (Song of the Sea) both commences and closes with praise to God for conquering these. Miriam too in her song with the women isolates this feat as expressing God’s greatness. When something is mentioned 3 times, this must be central to this story. This is compounded by the numerous repetitions within the Shira of God’s triumph over the Egyptian army. 

What is meant by the gemara in Brachos 50a that even the embryos sang the song at God's victory at the Reed Sea? Embryos refer to future generations. Seeing the Egyptians’ horses, riders and chariots drowned, and done so with such power and in an unparalleled miraculous display, the Jews viewed God's conquest as permanent, giving the Jewish nation a future vision of eternal freedom from Egypt for generations to come. Moses told the Jews, “…the Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again” (Exod. 14:13). Embryos singing refers to those future generations, an endless blue-sky forecast of goodness which God secured for the Jews. During the plagues, God was not triumphant over the Egyptians, but demonstrated His control over the universe. But at the sea, God became the victor and the Jews defender. Victory over a powerful enemy evokes song, where as viewing great plagues is amazing, but does not impact the person the same manner.