Beshalach 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


The Song of Creation

Parshas Beshalach

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In this week’s portion Pharoh, after experiencing the ten plagues, finally acquiesces to let the Jews go. This release, however, is only temporary, as afterwards he leads a full-scale chase after the Jews. He seemingly has the Jews between a rock and a hard place when he catches up to them and pins them against the sea (Yam Suf). 

But Hashem splits the sea and the children of Israel walk through, after which the water comes crashing down, drowning the Egyptian army. 

What did the Jews do next? "Then Moshe and the children of Israel chose to sing this shirah (song) to Hashem" (Shemos 15:1). 

According to the Mechilta (a work on the Torah written the same time as the Talmud), there are ten songs from the beginning of creation until the end of the scriptural period. How could there be only ten songs? In Psalms, King David himself wrote over one hundred songs. 

What is a song? The Torah definition of the word song, shirah, is much deeper than our idea of song, be it rhyming words or inspired lyrics.  Song, in its idealized form, means harmony. 

In a book written by the Sages called Chapters of Song, this concept is explained. Every part of creation from the sun to the ant, sings shirah to Hashem. Each minute part of creation understands its role in relation to the universe as a whole. In a symphony orchestra, each musician has a role, and when all the instruments come together in a crescendo, this creates beautiful music. So too is the world where each aspect of creation, no matter how minute, has a role, and when all are fulfilling their role, harmony is created. 

Man, however, is more complex. Due to so many preconceived biases, we often find it hard to see the big picture. If things don’t go our way immediately, we think they must be wrong. The Slonimer Rebbe explains that in the moment the Jews saw the splitting of the sea, everything became crystal clear to them. Their bitter enslavement in Egypt was not in vain, and there was rhyme and reason to it. And when this happened, they saw the harmony of Hashem. 

It is very hard for us to see the harmony of the universe, and to hear the symphony behind it. If we take a few moments out of our busy lives, to stop and look around at our surroundings, and if we look into our own hearts, we will be able to see things, sometimes subtle, often not, which testify to the harmony — the song — of creation.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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