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 TORAH FOR THE TIMES 
  

 
 
Torah Reading: Parshat Beshalach Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
Haftora: Judges 4:4 - 5:31
 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 5:02 p.m. 
Shabbat Ends: 6:04 p.m.
 

 

 B"H
BESHALACH
THE SONG OF THE FUTURE

 

 
The Ten Songs
The song that the Jewish people, led by Moses, sung when they crossed the Red Sea is one of the most powerful expressions of praise, joy, and gratitude of all times. According to the Midrash (Mechilta) it is one of Ten Songs that are mentioned in the Torah—the tenth being the one we will sing in the Messianic Age. Indeed, it is the first song that is mentioned explicitly in the Torah. (According to the Mechilta, the first of the ten songs was actually sung the night of the Exodus, 7 days prior to the singing of the song at the Splitting of the Red Sea. That song, however, is not mentioned in the Torah; it is alluded to in the Biblical book of Isaiah.)
Another factor that makes this song stand out is that in it we already have allusions to the last song that will be sung in the future Messianic Age, after the Resurrection of the Dead. The song opens with the words “Az yashir Moshe", which is usually translated as “Then sang Moses.” However, Rashi notes that the literal translation should be, “Then Moses shall sing.” One of Rashi’s explanations for the use of the future tense is that while Moses was singing praise for the miracles that the Jewish people witnessed then, he was also alluding to the miracles of the future Messianic Era, after the Resurrection of the Dead, when Moses will again sing the ultimate tenth song.
Indeed, as Ba’al HaTurim notes that the word yashir, will sing, is a composite of two words: yud shir, which means “ten songs,” intimating that all ten songs were already implicit in the song they sang when they crossed the sea.
Another hint to the ten songs can be found by counting ten letters from the letter shin of the word shirah-song, located in the first verse of the Song of the Sea. When we count ten letters from that shin, it will lead us to the letter yud. If we count another ten letters we will find the letter reish, and then counting another ten letters will bring us to the letter hei. These four letters coded into the text at intervals of ten yield the word shirah-song!
A Song of Faith
The question is, what was it that prompted Moses and the Jewish people to sing such an exalted song which had eluded them before, during the time when they witnessed the incredible miracles of the Ten Plagues and then their actual departure from Egypt?
While it is true, as noted above, that they did sing praise on the night of the Exodus, that song is neither recorded in the Torah nor does it contain any enduring message that will be repeated in the future. The song of the crossing of the sea, by contrast, is indeed connected to the future as well. It is of lasting value. What is so unique about this particular song?
According to Shaloh (the seventeenth century, Halachic authority and Kabbalist), based on the Midrash, the key to understanding the power of this song can be found in the verses which precede the song. There it states that “they believed in G‑d and Moses His servant.” It is the strong faith that they exhibited that provided them with the Divine inspiration to sing this exquisite song.
Feminine Faith
However Shaloh makes an astute observation: With respect to the Song of the Sea, sung primarily by the men, the Torah employs the feminine term zos for the word “this (song),” whereas in the song led subsequently by Miriam and the women, the Torah uses a masculine word lahem for the word “(to) them.”
Shaloh answers by establishing the premise that the women’s faith was on a much higher level than that of the men. Their song was therefore described in the more “strong-masculine” form as opposed to the song of the men which exhibited a much weaker faith and was therefore phrased in the more diffident, feminine form.
What was it that was lacking in the men’s faith?
Shaloh answers that the men did not fully believe in the miracles that were to happen until they had actually experienced them. Although they were told by G‑d through Moses that these miracles would occur, this promise did not move them. They were not motivated to sing praise to G‑d for something that hadn't happen yet.
Thus the Torah introduces the song of Moses with the words, “Then Moses and the children of Israel sang,” with the emphasis on the word “then.” Moses was suggesting that only then, after the splitting of the sea actually occurred, was he able to give expression to the miracles through the medium of song. He could not have sung until that point, at which time they finally expressed their faith in G‑d.
The women by contrast exhibited their faith even before they witnessed the miracles. Proof of this is the fact that they had their tambourines with them because they anticipated that these miracles would occur and were fully prepared to make use of their instruments. They were in the joyous singing mode even before they witnessed the miracles. For the women, just hearing from Moses that these miracles would occur sufficed.
In the Future
Shaloh states that in the future things will be different. He quotes the Midrash that says: “In the future, Israel will sing praise in the future.” Shaloh questions the repetitive language and provides an ingenious and inspirational answer:
As soon as the news of the Redemption is announced, the Jews will sing praise for the future miracles even before they will happen. Just by hearing that the Redemption with its attendant miracles are imminent will suffice to inspire us with faith, joy, and song.
This, the Shaloh says, is the meaning of the order of the words in Psalm (98:1): First it states concerning the future, “Sing unto G‑d a new song,” followed by “for He has wrought wonders.” First we will sing the new song of Redemption, and then we will experience the miracles.
Rectifying the Past
Perhaps we can connect the two diametrically opposite explanations of the introductory word az-then. The Shaloh, as mentioned above, understood its meaning as saying, “only then did he sing, but not earlier.” On the other hand, Rashi interpreted az to mean that Moses will sing this song in the future.
It can be suggested that Moses was already hinting to the fact, that notwithstanding their hesitation to sing before they saw the miracles, in the future we will indeed then sing the song even before the miracles occur. What they were lacking in the past, as exemplified by their use of the word “then,” which Moses and the Children of Israel sang only after witnessing miracles, will be rectified “then.” In the future—“then”—we will sing praise even before all the miracles unfold.
 
Sing Now!
The lesson for our times is obvious. Our generation has been privileged to hear the Rebbe declare that we are living on the very threshold of the Redemption. Indeed these are clearly momentous times as we have already witnessed some of the greatest miracles of history with the collapse of the Soviet Union among all the miracles that involve Israel’s survival and growth. But there are still many more miracles waiting to occur. The Rebbe has also made the declaration, quoting the words of the Midrash, “the time of your redemption has arrived.” We must respond to this anticipation for the ultimate and imminent Redemption with joy.
While joy has always been an indispensible part of Judaism it is now much more crucial. Now—despite all the negative things that have been occurring during the last few years that we must respond to appropriately—is the time to increase in joy. This joy, which expresses itself in song, is the ultimate means for us to demonstrate our faith in, and prepare for, the imminent coming of Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption.