B’Ohel Haneviyim: Parshas Beshalach 5773

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This week’s Haftorah is from Shoftim; it is the story of Devorah Hanevia’s and Barak’s battle against Sisra. The battle is won when Yael kills Sisra. After the battle is won the Navi tells us ותשר דבורה וברק – “Devorah and Barak sang”. The Haftorah then continues with the Song they sang. It would appear the reason this Haftorah was chosen is because it, like our Sedra, contains a Shira.

Both Shiros are prefaced by a Passuk telling us beforehand that Am-Yisroel, and Devorah and Barak sang Shira. In both instances there are discrepancies as to ‘who’ actually sang the Song in question. Both in Shiras Hayam and in Shiras Devorah the act of singing is described in the singular form. In Shiras Hayam the Passuk says ’Yashir’ – ‘he will sing’. In Shiras Devorah the Passuk say ‘Vatashar’ – ‘and she sang’. In both instances, however, there was more than an individual singing. Why is it that the singing is mentioned only in singular form?

In our Sedra the Midrash (Midrash Rabba) asks a series of questions about the word usage in the first Passuk of Shiras Hayam. One of the questions the Midrash asks is why is Shiras Hayam a “Shir” in the masculine form while usually it is referred to as “Shira” in the feminine form?

Without getting too involved in the Midrash’s answer it is apparent from the question that the Medrash is assuming that the “he” in “he will sing” and the “she” in “she sang” are pronouns belonging to the song itself. This being the case, the Pessukim should read “the song will sing” and “the song sang”. However strange it may sound, the Medrash is telling us that the songs sang themselves. What does it mean that a song sings itself?

The situations surrounding Shiras Hayam and Shiras Devorah were very different one from another. Shiras Hayam was sung after the entire Am-Yisroel witnessed the most stupendous episode in History – Salvation by Hashem on a National level. Shiras Devorah, by contrast, was sung about a military victory that could have easily been attributed to the human genius of Yael. Nonetheless both situations spurred, and culminated in, Shira. Thus the best way to explain Shira would seem to be as the actualization of inspiration. Inspiration occurs on its own. The only question is: do we allow it to be actualized?

We all have moments of inspiration. Often we ignore these special moments. If we would actually pay attention to them we would allow them to have a positive effect on us, thereby changing us for the good.

A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski