this coming Shabbat, Parashat b’Shalach will be read in the Synagogues. For those who cannot attend or have never seen the Sefer Torah of this portion, I would like to share with you the very unusual pattern of how these verses are written on the scroll. This has always intrigued me.
The Torah states that when Am Yisrael entered the sea, it became dry land with waters as a wall חֹמָה to their right and to their left.(Exodus 14 v29). To commemorate this miracle, the Hebrew text of the ” Shirat haYam -Song of the Sea” is stylized to resemble a ‘wavy wall.” with the words written in alternating blocks to suggest a wave of water.
According to Yalchut Me’am Lo’ez , the alternating “bricks” are intended to resemble waves of water, while the blank spaces separating these (ie: text blocks) suggest ‘blank spaces in our knowledge and praise of HaShem” which we are encouraged to add to the “building.”
The Sages count exactly 198 words in this song, which is the numerical value for the word tzchok צְחֹק a word that means “laughter” and is the word used to describe Sarah’s response when she finally gave birth to Yitzchak. According to Rabbi Bachya, the laughter in Yitzchak’s name comes from Avraham’s joy. The joy of Yitzchak’s birth, then, is linked with the “birth” of the nation of Israel at the time of the Exodus as Yitzchak’s symbolic death during the Akedah – The Binding represents Israel’s rebirth.