Hallel 5

הַיָּם רָאָה וַיָּנֹס, הַיַּרְדֵּן יִסֹּב לְאָחוֹר

The Yam Suf saw klal Yisrael going in and fled (split), (and at that time) the Yarden River (and all the waters in the world miraculously) turned backwards.

הֶהָרִים רָקְדוּ כְאֵילִים, גְּבָעוֹת כִּבְנֵי-צֹאן

The mountains skipped like rams (at Matan Torah), (and) hills skipped like lambs.

מַה-לְּךָ הַיָּם כִּי תָנוּס, הַיַּרְדֵּן תִּסֹּב לְאָחוֹר

What is with you, Yam Suf, that you flee; (and) the Yarden River, that you turn backwards?

הֶהָרִים תִּרְקְדוּ כְאֵילִים, גְּבָעוֹת כִּבְנֵי-צֹאן

[What is with you] mountains that you skip like rams; hills, [that you skip] like lambs?

מִלִּפְנֵי אָדוֹן חוּלִי אָרֶץ, מִלִּפְנֵי אֱ-לוֹהַּ יַעֲקֹב

(The answer is:) From before the master, Who formed the earth (we are frightened and therefore act so strangely), from before the G-d of Yaakov (Who made the miracles of Y’tzias Mitzrayim)

הַהֹפְכִי הַצּוּר אֲגַם-מָיִם, חַלָּמִישׁ לְמַעְיְנוֹ-מָיִם

(Just like He turned the water into dry land, so, too,) He can turn a rock into a pool of water [Sh’mos 17:6], (and) a harder rock into a spring of water [BaMidbar 20:11] (which shows Hashem’s mastery over everything).


What is the significance of the Yarden turning backward when the Yam Suf split? Midrash Shocher Tov comments that, in fact, all the bodies of water all over the world split. That is how the nations of the world, even in remote areas, learned of the splitting of the Yam Suf.

In the first perek of Hallel (T’hilim 113), the contrast between the belief of the nations and the emunah of B’nei Yisrael was highlighted. This second chapter began, as well, with a contrast between Yisrael/Beis Yaakov and Mitzrayim. We now present HaRav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch’s understanding of this second perek of Hallel and how it flows beautifully, continuing the theme of Hashem being “on high,” causing an upheaval of the earth’s nature, but at the same time “very near” (מִלִּפְנֵי אֱ-לוֹהַּ יַעֲקֹב – mi’lifnei Elokah Yaakov – from before the G-d of Yaakov). We have previously indicated that the Name “Elokim,” or here “Elokah,” represents Hashem’s Divine Providence, in every aspect of the world and of our individual lives.

When we became Hashem’s Sanctuary and kingdom on earth (his understanding of pasuk 2), He caused all the physical supports to sense the coming of that great moment (p’sukim 3-4). If you ask (p’sukim 5 and 6) the fleeing sea (the Yarden that flows backwards), the hills and mountains that rise and sink again: “What is the meaning of this moment? What does the upheaval of the earth’s nature proclaim?”

From The Hirsch Psalms (Feldheim Publishers):

They will answer (pasuk 7 and 8): מלפני וגו', “It is the Lord, Who at this moment begins His dominion over all the earth; it is אֱ-לוֹהַּ יַעֲקֹב, the G-d of Jacob, Who has just taken out for Himself that most powerless of peoples, which had sunk below all the nations of the world. He has done this in order to demonstrate through Israel the omnipotence and presence on earth of His rule, and that men and nations do not live simply for the purpose that they might unfold their power.” It is before Him, Who is “on high,” but at the same time “very near,” before the “Lord” and “G-d,” that the earth is to go into travail; it is to feel the birth pangs of a life that renews its vigor. וגו' הַהֹפְכִי – He changes tzur – the most compact, solid rock – into agam mayim, a receptacle for the collection of fresh waters, and chalamish, the hard pebbles into a spring that pours forth from within them.

Should this not perhaps also proclaim to the earth that, in view of this work of G-d, begun with Israel’s entry into the history of nations, the hearts of men, which had hitherto been solid and closed like rocks, will eventually open to receive the Divine truths, and that the Divine spark dormant within the stony human heart will be caused to awaken and unfold?