Vertluch: Parshas Beshalach


As we continue our voyage out of Mitzayim and into the desert, we reach a pinnacle in our illustrious history; bnei Yisroel crossing the yam suf. After klal Yisroel finishes walking through the sea and the Mitzriyim drown, the pasuk says ‘Az yashir Moshe…’(15; 1)Then, Moshe and bnei Yisroel sang shira to Hashem.

There’s a very interesting Medrash which says that Chazal say that Moshe Rabbeinu had sinned towards Hashem with the word Az and then rectified that sin with the same word, Az.

At the end of parshas Shemos, the first time Moshe goes to Pharoah, he is humiliated and degraded. Not only that, but after Moshe is banished from the palace the workload for bnei Yisroel is intensified. Immediately thereafter, the pasuk says ‘So Moshe returned to Hashem and said, why have You harmed this people? Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people.” (5; 22, 23) And Hashem said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand he will send them out, and with a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.” (6; 1)

Firstly, is this a play on the words Az and Az? What does it mean that since Moshe sinned with this word (Az) he had to rectify it with the same word (Az)?

Secondly, the actual words ‘Az Yashir’ were not said by Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah was informing us at which point klal Yisroel started saying Shira! What is the explanation of this Chazal?

My Rebbi wants to offer the following explanation:

Throughout one’s life there are ups and downs; life is often compared to a roller coaster. There are times when our ruchniyos and/or gashmios are on a high, while at other times they can be on a low, and we stagger. The truth is that whenever something happens to a person, the outcome all depends on their reaction. When a person is at a very low point, he has to be careful not to make any long term decisions. Hopefully, things will spiral upwards in the very near future and he doesn’t want to regret the decisions he made while he was in that state of mind. Yet, on the contrary, when a person is inspired tremendously and is on a spiritual high, he needs to act on that inspiration or he is in jeopardy of losing it as quickly as it came. The worst thing for a person, who is in the midst of a challenging nisayon, is to say ‘this is who I am and this is what my life is about.’ Right now he may be shallow and in a bad situation; but there are moments in a person’s life in which they have to tread water and then there are moments that they need to embrace the situation, in order not to lose the inspiration and to savor the moment.

The word Az is translated to mean ‘then’; it was precisely then, when Moshe returned from Midyan and was sent to Pharaoh, where he ultimately got ridiculed and thrown out of the palace. This caused Klal Yisroel’s situation to go from bad to worse. Moshe reacted and started asking questions. He said: Hashem, why did you send me here? The whole idea doesn’t seem as if it was going to work out and he felt that he was in a rut. But now, after krias yam suf everything was crystal clear. Klal Yisroel was saying ‘zeh kayli v’anvayhu’; they saw everything. It was at that moment where Moshe felt that high-so he embraced it and reacted by singing shira-he took that moment and used it to his benefit!

For a person to have the ability to take the moment-the moment he is inspired-and allow it to change them, is what turns them into a ‘Moshe.’ It wasn’t the literal word Az, but it was his reaction. The fact that Moshe took that moment and acted on it is what Chazal were referring to.

There’s a famous gemara (avodah zara 17a) regarding reb Elazar ben Durdia. The gemara recounts in detail how there wasn’t a zonah in the world he didn’t visit. When he decided to repent and he saw his pleas were falling on deaf ears, he placed his head in between his knees, realizing the teshuva can only come from him. He began to cry and wept until his soul departed from his body. At that moment a bas kol was heard saying ‘REB Elazar ben Durdia is now been ready for olam haba’.

The gemara continues and say that Rebbi cried when he heard this; he said ‘one can acquire his portion in the world to come in a single moment.’ Asks Rav Elyashav Shlit”a (and many others) is why was Rebbi crying? This should have been the most inspiring moment for anyone? To see a person who lived his whole life doing aveiros and at the time of his death a bas kol calls out and names him “Reb“? This should’ve given Rebbi so much chizuk, why was he crying?

The answer is this same point. Rebbi was crying because he saw how one moment-in a flash-a person can change their lives forever and he understood–how often do these opportunities come around and we pass up on it? How often do we get inspired and allow it to just pass away without grabbing onto it and helping it change us? That is why Rebbi was crying.

We all have moments in our lives but what do we do with it? It’s all in our reactions. A person can react and through that reaction it can be a game changer and they can turn their lives around. We must all strive to internalize those moments by acting upon them. Through the proper reactions we can elevate uorselves to a loftier level that will allow us to improve our daily avodas Hashem.

May we all be zoche.