Song of Moses and Isreal
The centerpiece of this week's parsha is naturally the great song of Moses
and of the Jewish people after their moment of deliverance from Pharaoh and
the flooding sea. This song of Moses and of Israel is repeated daily
throughout the centuries of Jewish life in our morning prayer service.
The exultation of the moment is still retained and felt many generations
later in the unmatched prose and poetry written in the Torah. What makes
this song unique is that there is no reference to human bravery, to the
courage of the Jewish people in plunging into the sea or to the leadership
of Moses and Aaron in shepherding the Jewish people through this crisis.
Rather the entire poem/song is a paean of praise and appreciation dedicated
to the God of Israel.
God operates, so to speak, through human beings and world events. Many times
His presence is hidden from our sight. Sometimes it is even willfully
ignored. In later victories and triumphs of the Jewish people and of Israel,
it is the human element that helps fashion those victories and triumphs that
is acknowledged and celebrated.
But here in the song of Moses and Israel we have an acknowledgement of God's
great hand without ascribing any credit to human beings and natural and
social forces. I think that this is perhaps the one facet that makes this
song so unique. Compare it to the song of Deborah, which forms the haftorah
to this week's parsha. In that song the prophetess assigns a great deal of
credit to the armed forces of Israel, to Barack its general, and even to
Deborah herself, a fact that does not escape the notice of the rabbis of the
Talmud. No such self-aggrandizement appears in the song of Moses and Israel
at Yam Suf.
This is completely in line with the character of Moses who is described in
the Torah as being the most humble and self-effacing of all human beings.
There is no question that without Moses there would not have been an exodus
from Egypt nor salvation of Israel on the shores of the Yam Suf. But it
would be completely out of character for Moses to assign any of the credit
for these enormous and miraculous achievements to himself or his actions and
Thus the greatest of leaders and the most gifted of prophets attains that
championship of leadership and prophecy by downplaying his role. Moses is
well aware of his greatness and his unique relationship with the God of
Israel. He is not naïve enough to think of himself as a plain ordinary human
being. To do so would really be a form of ersatz humility. But he is wise
enough to realize that this exalted status that he has attained is little
more than a gift that God has bestowed upon him.
From the beginning of his leadership career, when he attempted to refuse
becoming the leader of Israel till his last days on earth, he retains this
innate humility, which in fact allows him to be the strongest of leaders and
most courageous of prophets. There is a lesson in this for all later
generations and for all of us that aspire to positions of leadership and
importance. That is why this song of Moses and Israel is repeated daily in
Rabbi Berel Wein