Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Night Special - Melaveh Malka with the Shira

Due to family vacation (aka NY Yeshiva intercession) I was unable to attend the Rabbi Frand shiur live this week and could not post the Thursday Parsha Tidbits. However, I was able to download the shiur to my MP3 player from the website (only $2.50 per shiur - a bargain!) on Friday and I would be remiss if I did not write a post on this week's great vort. Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

This week's parsha contains one of the most famous biblical songs - the Shira on the Yam Suf. Found in Beshalach 15:1, the Shira begins "Az Yashir Moshe" - a sentence with a seeming contradiction as it apparently uses both present and future tenses. How did Moshe then sing in the future?

The gemara answers that the singing will be in the future and that this is a proof that Hashem will do tichias hameisim - the dead will come alive and sing to Hashem.

Rashi on the pasuk gives a much more p'shat oriented answer. Rashi writes that then, when Moshe experienced the miracle at Yam Suf, Moshe decided that he would sing in the future. The Sifsei Chachamim explains that Moshe and the Jews they were inspired to sing the song when they saw what happened at Yam Suf.

The Maharal further explains that when a person is inspired and wants to sing, it starts in the heart. When a person is so elated, he wants to sing from his heart. Thus Rashi is telling us - when the Jews saw the Yad Hashem they were overwhelmed with emotion and had song in their heart and this inspired them to sing. The actual words of the song were an outward manifestation of the feeling of the song.

Rabbi Frand gave a mashal - when a person has a temperature it is an external manifestation of something that is wrong internally. The fever is not the problem, it is just a signal that there is an infection or a sickness inside. In the same way, the song that comes out of the person is an outward expression of the feeling of joy that the person has inside.

Rabbi Frand then quoted the sefer Bei Chiya who links the comments to two gemaras. We learn that that Jews only say Shira on wine - when a happy occasion comes upon us we celebrate by singing to Hashem on wine (i.e. Sheva Brachos, Chuppa or Bris). An additional gemara teaches the concept of nichnas yayin yatza sod - when wine comes in a person loses inhibitions and is able to speak honestly about his true feelings. Through these gemaras we see that a Jew uses the wine to release his true feelings of happiness for what Hashem has given him.

Rabbi Frand then brought another Maharal who asks - why is that there is no brocha on the Hagaddah? Shouldn't there be a brocha on the mitzva of telling over the story of redemption from Egypt? The Maharal answers that there is no brocha because the mitzva of sipur yitzias mitzrayim is a mitzva of the heart. Although we spend hours talking about the miracles of yitzias mitzrayim at the seder - the true mitzva is internal. [We see this in the mitzva at the seder that a person must feel as he is leaving Egypt at that moment - this is obviously something which can only be internal].

Rabbi Frand then quoted the Bei Chiya who ties this back to the Shira. The gemara writes that the Shira must be written with words and gaps. The line structure for the Shira in the Torah stands apart from most other prose because it is written with script and blank spaces and there are actually more blank spaces then script. Why? Because the song can't properly articulate all the feelings one has inside - song begins in the heart and the words don't properly express all the feelings.

So where does the Shira actually begin - one might say the later part of the pasuk is the beginning - Ashira L'Hashem - I will sing to Hashem. However, if this is the case, why is the Az Yashir also written with the spaces and gaps? Because the emotion welled up inside when they perceived the miracles and then they decided to sing - this was the beginning of the song.

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