By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
Parashas Beshallach is famous for the Shiras HaYam, the Song of the Sea. This is a song of thanksgiving and praise which Moshe sang after the tremendous miracles of the splitting of the Yam Suf, the Red Sea, the Jews crossing through the dry seabed, and the drowning of the Egyptians. This song begins with the words “Az yashir,” “Then he will sing.” The Midrash brings down that “Az Yashir” is Moshe Rabbeinu’s way of repenting for a different time that he used the word “Az.”
The first time, when Moshe went to Pharaoh to ask him to let the Jews go, Pharaoh responded by ceasing to give the Jewish slaves straw and making them work harder. After he left Pharaoh, Moshe said to Hashem, “Mei’az basi el Pharaoh . . . ,” from the time I went to Pharaoh, things got harder for the Jews.
How was Az Yashir, the Song of the Sea, repentance for complaining? Shirah, song, is a melody composed of high and low notes. All beautiful and moving songs have both high and low parts. A song that has only a high part or only a low part is not nearly as beautiful and powerful. The way to sing shirah to Hashem is to recognize that everything that He did, does, and continues to do is all part of a plan and is good (Ohr Gedalyahu, Rav Gedalia Shorr).
Chizkiyahu could have been Mashiach except that he didn’t sing shirah to Hashem (Midrash). Mashiach comes from David Hamelech. David Hamelech exemplified this ability of being able to sing shirah to Hashem and being able to recognize that everything is good. Tehillim, Psalms, was written during all the parts of David Hamelech’s life, the easy parts and the hard parts. It is astounding how he was able to continue his shirah even at such times, as he says (3:1) “Mizmor l’Dovid bivarcho mipnei Avshalom b’no,” a psalm by David as he fled from Avshalom, his son.
This was written at a point in David Hamelech’s life when Avshalom was attempting to overthrow his rulership. Mashiach must have this ability to recognize that no matter how difficult things seem, they are from Hashem and are ultimately good. The mistake that Moshe Rabbeinu made in using the word ‘az’ in saying “mei’az basi el Pharaoh . . .” was in not recognizing that the increased difficulty for the Jews was also good. Rather he focused on the immediate, the here and now, and saw that right now things were more difficult.
If a person stands with his face pressed up against a mural, all he will see is the color right in front of his nose. However, when he takes a few steps back he will be able to see the entire picture. At the splitting of the sea, Moshe was able to see the “big picture” and how every difficulty in Egypt was really a step towards the Jews’ redemption and freedom from slavery.
Every person has ups and downs in his or her life. These are the high notes and the low notes that make up our own individual life’s song. The challenge for each person is to combine his notes into a beautiful melody of shirah to Hashem. Each family unit, as well, has a song, a shirah, they write as a family. Oftentimes we see families in our community that are going through a difficult or challenging situation. The situations that challenge a family unit as a whole are varied. Sometimes there is a special needs child, a family member with a serious illness, a struggling business, a lost job, a child off the derech, or a child with learning or behavioral disabilities. Sometimes a parent figure is struggling with depression, an elderly grandparent living in the home, a family member hurt in an accident, or severe hurricane damage to a home or business, etc.
There are many challenges that are apparent to the outside community and there are many more that no one even knows about. Occasionally we see a family in the community that is challenged, and the family as a whole moves through the challenge in a way that everyone around them is inspired by their behavior. This family has turned their song into a shirah. Oftentimes the attitude of a family to a challenge is set by the parents. Each parent has a tremendous power to influence the reactions of the entire family unit to a challenge. They set the tone of how the challenge is to be viewed and how the family copes.
Let us try to recognize that both the high and low notes, the simchas and successes, the challenges and difficulties, are from Hashem. Let us recognize that we as individuals and we as a family can turn our song into a shirah. Let us recognize that one family member can impact the entire family’s ability to handle a challenge. Let us live our lives as a shirah to Hashem and hope that He will hasten the ultimate redemption so we will be able to understand and sing shirah on all of the last 2,000-plus years of exile together with Moshe Rabbeinu, David Hamelech, and Mashiach ben David, bimheirah b’yameinu, speedily in our days. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.