SHIRAH ḤADASHAH ("A new song sang the redeemed"):
A passage which illustrates the influence of the Midrash on the development of synagogal music. The Biblical prescription of circumcision as a qualification for partaking of the paschal lamb (Ex. xii. 43, 48) led the ancient expositors (comp. Ex. R. xix.) to point to the rite of the covenant as the initial step of that loyal acknowledgment of divine sovereignty which culminated in the song at the sea (Ex. xvi. 18). In the spirit of the Midrash, Judah ha-Levi's "ge'ullah" hymn "Yom le-Yabbashah" (comp. Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p.205), for the seventh day of Passover, the anniversary of the passing through the Red Sea, sings of circumcision in connection with the song of Moses. Accordingly, as throughout the Middle Ages and down to recent times circumcision took place in the synagogue (see illustration in
During the same service the "mohel," or operator, if present in the synagogue, as a special honor was allowed to lead an antiphonal chant, the alternate verses being recited by the congregation, from the point where the words "And Thou didst make [lit. "cut"] a covenant" (Neh. ix. 8) occur to the end of the passage Ex. xiv. 30-xv. 18, which immediately follows. In these practises originated in the eighteenth century a special jubilant intonation for the ḥazzan, who sang in festal tone the sentences immediately preceding the "'Amidah" (see Shemoneh 'Esreh) from the words "Shirah ḥadashah," where the passage already chanted by the mohel and alluded to in Judah ha-Levi's hymn is again briefly quoted.
The transcription herewith presents the festal melody in the London tradition. The more elaborate version peculiar to Berlin is given in Marksohn and Wolf," Auswahl Alter Hebräischer Synagogal-Melodieen," No. 26, Leipsic, 1875, without, however, reference to the occasions when it was sung.