Torah Fax
Friday, February 2, 2007 - 14 Shevat, 5767

Torah Reading  Beshalach (Exodus 13:17 - 17:16)
Candle Lighting Time 4:56 PM
Shabbat ends 5:59 PM
Shabbat Shirah - Tu B’Shvat

Whistling Dixie?

Every Shabbat has a distinctive character. Usually, this unique character is based on the individual theme of the weekly Parshah. Sometimes, the tone of a Shabbat can be set by the holiday that the Shabbat might coincide with. There are a few weeks in the year, however, where the Shabbat itself receives a distinctive name. This week's Shabbat is one such example. It is known as Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song, because in it we read of the song the Israelites sang when they crossed the Red Sea.

But this week's Parshah, in addition to recounting the song the Jews sang in jubilation after they crossed the sea, also recounts the entire miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea itself. So why do we name the entire Shabbat, the Shabbat of Shirah, Song, and thereby give more importance to the song that was sung after the miracle, than the miracle itself?

The answer to this lies in a better understanding of the concept of song in Judaism and in Chassidic literature.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe who is known as the Alter Rebbe, once remarked: "Speech is the pen of the heart, song is the pen of the soul." This means that while one can express one's ideas and even feelings by way of speech, one can in no way express the deep emotions of one's inner soul with words. To reveal one's innermost spiritual sentiments, one must use song.

Furthermore, Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains, the sole means to reaching a higher plane of spirituality is by way of melody. Thus we find that the angles, who are constantly striving to grow closer to G‑d, are always singing.

(It should be noted that not all melodies can help express the desires of one's inner soul. The songs contained in the Torah and songs that were composed by holy people throughout the ages are uniquely capable of accomplishing this sublime task.)

When the Jews left Egypt, they made a transition from a lowly state of existence (our sages say that they had sunken to untold spiritual depths during their stay in Egypt) to a much greater level. To help the Jewish people make this leap, they sang a spiritual, liberating melody. The Song of the Sea helped ensure that the Exodus was not merely a geographic change, but a spiritual metamorphosis.

The Exodus and Shabbat are very much connected. Just as the Exodus brought about a major spiritual change for the Jewish people that occurred when the Jews changed their physical location (space) so, too, is Shabbat a sublimely spiritual experience that happens with a change in time. When we move from Friday to Shabbat, we are not merely changing the time frame in which we find ourselves, we become elevated to an entirely new plane. Indeed, Kabbalistic literature describes at great length how the entire universe is refined, elevated and transformed on Shabbat.

Just as the transition from being a spiritually deprived nation in Egypt to a free people ready to receive the Torah at Sinai was brought about through song, so, too, can the journey from the hectic distractions of the week to the spiritual bliss of Shabbat be made only through song. For this reason, many of the great 16th century Kabbalists in the holy city of Safed, including Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Arizal, would go out to the fields to greet the Sabbath Queen with song and meditation. One of those great Kabbalists, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, composed the beautiful Friday night melody, Lecha Dodi, sung in all synagogues throughout the world to this very day.

We can now appreciate why the Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shirah, commemorating the song sung after the splitting of the Red Sea, rather than the splitting of the sea itself. While the splitting of the sea helped the Jews completely escape the tyranny of Egypt, the song reflected the dynamic change that was going on inside of the collective Jewish soul. More than the elimination of the Egyptians, it was this change that truly transformed the Jews into a chosen people, ready to act as a light unto the nations.

In this spirit, we find many references to the fact that the future redemption will also be experienced with song. Not only will song be the outward expression of our joy at having been redeemed, but the song will also be the medium through which we will express our innermost divine feelings. And it will be those feelings that will take us form a state of exile to a state of redemption.

Moshiach Matters

"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach. Even if he delays, I will wait every day for him to come." This is the 12th of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith. This does not mean that every day we should wait for Moshiach's ultimate arrival, but that every day we should wait expectantly for Moshiach to come on that very day. The Talmud teaches that "Thinking is potent." Accordingly, the very fact that Jews around the world are intensely and persistently focusing their hearts and minds on the world's urgent need for Moshiach, will in itself surely hasten his arrival. (The Rebbe)

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