Former Shaliach in Chicago
“Then Moshe and the Children of Israel sang this song to Hashem, and they spoke, saying: I will sing to Hashem, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.” (Shmot 15:1)
The climax of our parsha is the famous Shirat HaYam (literally, Song of the Sea). After witnessing the miraculous Kri’at Yam Suf(the Splitting of the Sea), Bnei Yisrael praised Hashem. In fact, this shirah is cited as the main source for reciting Hallel to commemorate occasions when the Jewish People were saved from dire circumstances. For instance, we recite Hallel on Chanukah, Yom HaAtzmaut, and Yom Yerushalayim.
What is unique about this shirah?
The Midrash (Shmot Rabah 23:4) teaches that from Creation until Kri’at Yam Suf, no one said shirah: not Adam HaRishon, not Avraham Avinu, not Yitzchak Avinu, and not Yaakov Avinu. However, at Yam Suf, Bnei Yisrael did say shirah. Moreover, Hashem declared that He had been expecting shirah “from these”.
Why shirah? Does Hashem need our praise?
The following is based on a drashah which I heard from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Eliyahu Blumenzweig.
The aforementioned Midrash links, “then (az) Mosheand the Children of Israel sang,” (Shmot 15:1)to, “Your throne is established of old (mei’az – literally, from then).” (Tehilim 93:2) According to the Midrash, a king cannot be called an emperor nor can he sit on his throne until he has been crowned by his subjects. Similarly, when Hashem created the world, He was alone. However, when Am Yisrael said shirah, Hashem’s throne was established. HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s reign on earth was not complete until His Nation praised Him and affirmed His sovereignty. Hashem’s coronation was manifested by Shirat HaYam.
Creation involves a Revelation to mankind. Yet, merely observing this Revelation is not sufficient. The witness must be moved to “sing” with praise.
Is it possible to observe the Revelation and not be moved to praise?
Some individuals do not recognize miracles. In their eyes, every occurrence can be attributed to the laws of nature. Meanwhile, others are aware that an event is Divinely-inspired, but they remain indifferent and unaffected.
Finally, there are those who have become inured. The Revelation no longer has an impact. Perhaps, the Avot, who experienced constant Divine Revelation, fell into this latter category, and therefore, they did not say shirah. Obviously, this type of habituation indicates that they were on an extremely high level of spirituality. Nevertheless, a deep, meaningful response was expected of them.
This idea conveys an important lesson for mankind, in general, and Am Yisrael, in particular. Revelation demands that a mortal human being be capable of experiencing it. Furthermore, when one is exposed to Revelation, one must spread its inherent message. The first step is recognizing the Revelation for what it is, but afterwards, we must develop our ability to “sing” – our capacity to communicate our experiences in a way which indicates that we are deeply connected to the Revelation.
We were formed as a nation during the Exodus from Egypt. Our national raison d’être is to spread Hashem’s Message. Indeed, Am Yisrael was specifically chosen to participate in the Revelation. Hence, the very laws of nature were broken during our national birth – during the first steps of the process which transformed us into a mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh (literally, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation).
In our time, the Divine Presence is generally revealed through natural means, and therefore, we may have difficulty observing the Revelation. Nevertheless, as we recall the miraculous events of the distant past, may we be privileged to understand that the Revelation continues on into the present. Furthermore, may we learn how to sing shirah and thereby enable others to recognize the Revelation as well.