Learn to sing Mi Chamocha --- Who is Like You, O Lord? Print
User Rating: / 0
All transliterations, commentary, and audio recordings are copyright © 1997, 1998, 2002, 2009, or 2016 by Jordan Lee Wagner. All rights reserved.

Here are some melodies for Mi Cha-mo-cha:

  • Here is a traditional melody for Mi Chamocha, the way it was sung in northeastern New Jersey in the 1960s.
  • Here is another version of that melody, but as it is sung in the Boston area today. Beware! Although they are very close, and begin exactly the same way, they clash if sung together. So if you're singing along in an unfamiliar congregation, keep your ears open and be ready to go either way.

Mi Cha-mo-cha (Who is Like You, O Lord?)

There are three key phrases in Ga^al Yisraeil that the Congregation, rather than the Reader, recites... [ The first of these is Mi Cha-mo-cha (Exodus 15:11). ]

This is one of the most familiar and stirring passages in Jewish tradition. Racing desperately before Pharaoh and his army, we sang this song as we plunged into the Sea -- before it split! (Notice the unusual variation [ka-mo-cha] of the word cha-mo-cha appearing in the second line, and compare it to the first line.)

Moses was engrossed in prayer when God chastised him, exclaiming, "My beloved are drowning in the Sea and you stand there praying!?!?!" Moses replied, "But, Sovereign of the Universe, what can I do?" And God said, "Tell the Children of Israel to go forward! Lift up your rod and stretch out your hand."

At the first "Mi", we splashed into the water, ankle deep. At "cha-mo-cha" we were sloshing through water knee-deep. At "ba-eilim" we were plowing into the sea where the water was waist deep. By "Ad-o-shem" it was up to our chests. At the second "Mi" the water reached our necks! We strode on, and as our heads went completely under water, began to sing "cha-mo-cha!" Of course, mouths full of water can not make a "cha" sound, but produced "ka" instead. It was at that moment that God parted the Sea. [i]

Once safely on the farther shore, with Pharaoh and his army being destroyed by the waters as they came crashing back together, Miriam led the women in The Song at the Sea, beginning with Mi Chamocha. The angels also wished to sing songs of praise. But God silenced them, saying, "My children are drowning in the Sea, and you want to sing songs!?!?!"

Mi Chamocha is usually sung to a very old melody. There are two variations, differing only in the presence (or absence) of a semi-tone rise in pitch between "Ko-" and "-desh." Subsequent melodic intervals are maintained but are all a semi-tone higher. So if you are new to a congregation, listen alertly at that point.

[i] C.f., Talmud Sotah 36b.

--- adapted from "The Synagogue Survival Kit" by Jordan Lee Wagner, publ. by Rowman & Littlefield. 1997.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 December 2009 18:52