The Seventh day of Pesach

April 11, 2012

Tomorrow evening commences the seventh day of Pesach when the Israelites, mostly on foot, hotly persued by the Egyptians in heavy chariots, arrived at the Reed Sea.

It seemed that all was lost when HaShem caused a wind to blow all night, splitting the sea and allowing the Israelites to cross. When travelling across mud, people on foot have the advantage over armed soldiers in heavy chariots which tend to get stuck.

Here is a classic example of HaShem performing a miracle ( unless you argue that the timing was sheer coincidence!) in a natural way so that the atheists can deny that HaShem is involved with the destiny of man.

The Jewish people however at the time recognised the miraculous saving hand of the Almighty and in Exodus 15 sang the Song of the Sea ( Shirat HaYam) which is the Torah reading for the seventh day of Pesach.

The song itself consists of 18 verses in which Hashem’s name is mentioned 14 times.

Az Yashir Moshe uVenei Yisrael et haShirah hazot.
Then Moshe and the Israelites sang this song.

There is much discussion amongst the commentators about the word “az” (then) and the verb “yashir” which is in the future tense and literally means will sing!

Rashi, the Father of Biblical commentary addresses this problem. When he (Moshe) saw the miracle , he thought that he would sing (= yashir) a song. The yud at the beginning of a verb often has the meaning that the person thought, had the idea and then performed the action.

The Shelah Hakadosh and the Kli Yakar see the word “az” (then) as an implicit criticism of the Israelites. Then, and only then did they sing a song of praise to HaShem but not when they first left Egypt.

However they are strongly opposed by David Hamelech, the Talmud Yerushalmi, the Vilna Gaon, and the Netziv of Volozhyn.

King David wrote in Psalm 13:6 ” I will sing to HaShem, for He has COMPLETED His goodness towards me.

The Jerusalem Talmud, Pesachim chap 10 halachah 6 also states that one does not sing until after the conclusion of the process.

The Gaon of Vilna brings a proof from a verse in Mishle (Proverbs)
Chap 11 verse 10: when it is good for the Zadikim (righteous)
The people of the city are happy
When the wicked are destroyed there is song.”

The Israelites escaped from Egypt which is a cause for joy but only when the wicked (Egyptians) are destroyed is there song.

The Netziv in his Haamek Davar says the same, ” when one gets to the END of the rescue then one thanks HaShem.”

As mention above, the verb should have been Shar (sang) not yashir (will sing). The Midrash takes the extra letter “yud” ( numerical value 10) as a hint to the 10 songs in the Bible which are:
1. Shirat Hayam ( the Song of the Sea)
2. Shirat HaBe’er ( the Song of the Spring of water)
3. Ha’azinu
4. The Song of Yehoshua
5. The Song of Devorah
6. The song of Hannah
7. The song of King David
8. The Song of King Solomon
9. The Song King Hezekiah
10. The future Song ( of the Messiah)

The Talmud ( Sanhedrin 90b) records the opinion of Rabbi Meir:
Then will Moses sing; it is not written sang but will sing, from here we see techiyat hameitim ( the resurrection of the dead) is from the Torah.

Wishing you all a good Yom tov, filled with song, now and always.

Rabbi Meir Wise

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