The Great Song
The great song of Moshe and of Israel forms the centerpiece of this week’s
parsha. The song was not a one-off historical event. It has remained a part
of the morning services of the synagogue prayers of Jews for millennia.
The song concentrates on God’s power, on Israel’s always miraculous survival
and on the perfidious behavior of the wicked enemies of the Jewish people.
God’s power and greatness is seen in the salvation of Israel from its
enemies, strong as they may be or have been. This song of Moshe forms one of
the bookends of the story of the Jewish people.
The other bookend is the second song of Moshe – this time Moshe alone is the
performer – in the parsha of Haazinu at the conclusion of the Book of
Dvarim. That song also reiterates the theme of this earlier song relating to
God’s power and omnipotence, the survival of the Jewish people against all
odds, and the judgments to be rendered against the enemies of the Jewish people.
So the Torah at the beginning of the narrative of Israel’s sojourn in the
Sinai desert and at the end of that forty year period sings the same song,
albeit with different words and melody. But the content and message of the
song has remained the same. This can also be said regarding all of Jewish
history – it is the same song that has sustained us for these many
generations though the words and melody may no longer be exactly the same
throughout this long period of time and through our varied experiences.
Moshe instructs the Jewish people to learn and always remember the song of
Haazinu. It is the song of the future redemption of Israel, the song that
will light the way for Jews in dark and dangerous times. So why is it that
the song that Jews know best, the one that we recite seven times every week
of our lives is the first song of Moshe and Israel at the salvation of God
at Yam Suf?
The lesson here is obvious though often overlooked. The second song of
Moshe has little credence if not for the first song at the Yam Suf. Once
having experienced miraculous redemption, it is possible to believe firmly
that it will happen once more. We are taught in the Torah that in the future
redemption “you will be shown wondrous events just as it was in the days of
the Exodus from Egypt.” That is why the commandments of the Torah, the
Shabat itself and all the holidays are classified and named as being a
memory aid to the Exodus from Egypt.
Those who cannot remember the past rarely have lasting hope for their
future. The song of Moshe and Israel at the Yam Suf validates all later
Jewish experiences, goals and hopes. It is a constant reminder of God’s
omnipotence and of His guarantee to us of Jewish survival and ultimate
triumph over evil and wickedness. This Shabat is one of “shira” – song –
because, again, it validates and confirms all Jewish songs throughout the ages.
The Psalmist teaches us that at the time of the final redemption “then our
tongues will be filled with song.” The melody and words may be new to us
then but the message will certainly be grounded in the teachings of Moshe
and Israel in the song of this week’s parsha.
Rabbi Berel Wein