Parshas Beshalach: Are We Still Singing?

אז ישיר משה ובני ישראל את השירה הזאת

Then Moshe  and the Bnai Yisroel sang this song


Parshas Beshalach, also known as Shabbos Shira, features the beautiful אז ישיר sang by Moshe Rabbeinu and the Bnai Yisroel, as well as the shira that the women sang, led by Miriam Haneviah. Moshe began his song with the word אז -az. Chazal tell us that Moshe sinned with the word “az” when he complained,  ומאז באתי אל־פרעה לדבר בשמך הרע לעם הזה והצל לא־הצלת את־עמך   – and from the time I came to Pharaoh, You made things worse for the People. Moshe now wanted to fix this up. He corrected his sin with the use of this same word “az” when he sang “Az yashir Moshe.” The Midrash is not just telling us that the same word was used, so all is good now. Rather, it is emphasizing the thematic relationship between these pesukim and events.

There are many explanations of this Midrash. The Beis HaLevi’s is one of the more well-known: At the time of redemption we will be privileged to look back and understand how all that we thought was bad and to our detriment was really a bracha in disguise. Moshe sang “Az yashir” with the realization that the suffering he complained of and questioned, “m’az basi el Pharoah,” was really all for the good.

Moving on to the next shirah, we find that the posuk begins, ותען להם מרים- and Miriam chanted for them. According to the rules of dikduk, the word להם should have been written as להן because Miriam was leading the women. It seems that Miriam did indeed first talk to the men. The Beis Yisroel once jokingly explained that she was yelling at the men, asking them to leave so the women can now have their opportunity to sing as well. Only after that did they begin to sing.

The Seforim hakedoishim explain another p’shat. Miriam was giving the men rebuke about their song. “It’s really nice that all of you men are singing. But where was your song a minute before the Yam Suf split?” Are you only a ma’amin when you see with your eyes HaShem’s salvation? Is that what it takes to get you to say thank you to HaShem and sing His praise? The women have been singing all along. When Amram and Yocheved separated because all seemed lost, Miriam approached Amram and convinced him to remarry, thus causing all the husbands to do the same. When Moshe and the other babies were drowning in the water, Miriam stood there; a bedrock of faith. In Mitzrayim, when the men couldn’t think of carrying on any more, it was the wives that went out to the fields with a hot meal, dressed up beautifully for their husbands.

Similarly, the gemara in Mesectha Sanhedrin (92b) tells us a most fascinating story. Nevuchadnetzar threw Chananya, Mishael and Azarya into a fiery furnace. At that moment, HaShem told Yechezkel to revive the dry bones that were nearby in the Dura Valley. After they were revived, these bones came and struck Nevuchadnetzar on his face. Upon seeing this miracle, Nevuchadnetzar offered a most incredible shirah to HaShem (Daniel 3:33). The malach (Gavriel) came down and slapped him across the face causing the song to conclude. The gemara ends off by quoting Rav Yitzchak that were it not for the malach causing him to stop, this new song could have overshadowed the songs of Dovid Hamelech.

Without dissecting the entire story, there is a very compelling question from the Kotzker Rebbe that needs to be mentioned (Sefer Lahavos Kodesh pg. 109). Why did HaShem send a malach to stop his song? Was he not singing HaShem’s praises? The rebbe explained that there is no chochma to praise HaShem after witnessing incredible miracles. “Let’s give him a potch and see if he will still sing!” Of course, at the moment he was hit, the song ended. Contrasting him to Dovid Hamelech, the Ne’im zmiros Yisroel, he was a man that chapped petch his entire life. His brothers chased him out calling him terrible names; a lion tried to kill him in the forest; all the haters he dealt with; Shaul chasing him; the loss of a baby son; one son killing another; a son rebelling and trying to kill him, etc. etc. etc. And yet, Dovid Hamelech never stopped singing his praise because he knew that HaShem has a masterplan.

This parsha teaches us to look at our lives and no matter what is going on, to buckle down never allowing the song to die out. Got questions? Sure, there are plenty! Emunah? All the more so! What was obvious to the women all along, Moshe Rabbeinu came to teach us all making sure that the music will never fade for even a moment.

Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל