Shirat Hayam and The Prince of Egypt

I already did a Shabos Zmiros post for today, but orthoblogger DovBear reminded me that tomorrow morning, Jews around the world will read Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea, sung by our ancestors as they crossed the Sea of Reeds out of Egypt.

And that reminded me of The Prince of Egypt. I consider The Prince of Egypt to be not only a fantastic film, but a wonderful piece of midrash. I learned a lot about how the film came to be at LimmuNY last year, when acclaimed biblical translator Everett Fox spoke about the film and showed clips from it. Fox was flown out to LA by Dreamworks several times of the course of the production of the film to serve as biblical consultant.

Though Shirat Hayam is protrayed somewhat inaccurately in the film, I don’t think it takes anything away from it. Rather than having everyone sing it as they cross the sea, they have a children’s choir sing it as they leave Egypt and head for the sea (presumably amongst all of the looting!), with adults joining in a few lines into the song.

The video below shows that part of the film. The clip begins with the death of Pharoah’s son and continues with the song “(There can be Miracles) If You Believe.” Shirat Hayam begins around 3:40. Huge props to the filmmakers for the fact that this key song in the film is sung in Hebrew!

BTW, I love the fact that it’s Miriam that initiates “If You Believe,” preserving the idea that she is a songstress.

Here is a similar video from the Israeli version of the film. The Israeli version, rather than featuring just Hebrew subtitles, was re-recorded entirely in Hebrew with Israeli voice actors and famous Israeli singers. As with our liturgy, I find the clips of this film in Hebrew to be ten times as rousing.

Further coolness in this last video. This is the Hebrew version of the burning bush scene. Much of the dialogue is directly quoting Shmot in this scene. “Mosheh, Mosheh.” “Hineni.” And of course, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.” Etc. It’s incredibly rousing to watch with your Tanach in front of you. You can read along with the film! Another recognizable phrase in the scene: “Eretez zavat chalav ud’vash.”

11 Responses to Shirat Hayam and The Prince of Egypt

  1. Rich February 8, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    I see they merged the Burning Bush scene with the midrash about Moses retrieving the lost lamb.

    Wow. I think I might want the Hebrew version of this film. It actually sounds like the language is something I could mostly understand.

  2. David A.M. Wilensky February 8, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    Yeah. Next time in Israel I’m on going on a mission to find the Hebrew DVD.

  3. Tal February 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    David, I agree that the Hebrew version is lot better, all but two lines. Mashiach, mashiach mashiach?! I like ashirah ashirah ashirah a bit more. Also, gam im ein tikvah od lo horgim (even if there’s no hope, we don’t kill). Not sure that this makes sense in or out of context. Thanks for sharing though.

  4. Rich February 8, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    I kinda noticed that too. And the shirat hayam? Missing all the good bits. The presentation of this has an almost Christian feel.

    I will also note that this song is just . . . insipid in English, but moving in Hebrew – until the Mashiach bit, which kind of broke the spell for me.

  5. David A.M. Wilensky February 9, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    I can assure you no actual Christians were involved. Fox seemed to indicate when he spoke about the film that all the people involved in this film were Hollywood Jews and seculars. No real religious Christians.

  6. Rich February 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    Interesting . . .

  7. Bill D. April 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    Can anyone recommend a website or store in the United States where one can buy the Israeli version of Prince of Egypt in Hebrew with English subtitles?

    • David A.M. Wilensky April 7, 2009 at 5:37 am #

      For real, Bill! I want ti really badly. The problem is that if you were to one in Israel, the DVD would be coded for the wrong region.

  8. Jen December 28, 2010 at 1:51 am #

    After hunting all day on the internet for a Hebrew version of The Prince of Egypt, I finally found it on the French Amazon website. It’s R2 though.

    The Prince Of Egypt [Import anglais] Langue : Anglais, Hébreu
    Région : Région 2

    http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B000059HL2/ref=ord_cart_shr?ie=UTF8&m=A1X6FK5RDHNB96

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