Beshalach – The Enduring Power of Song

This Shabbos we celebrate Shabbat Shira, recalling the song Klal Yisrael sang after miraculously crossing the sea to freedom. Song erupts spontaneously, ala b’leebo sheyashir (Rashi, Shemos 15:1) emanating from a deepened recognition and feeling of faith (see Shir Hashirim, 4:8, tashuri meirosh amanah). And song forges a more lasting connection, as the Torah (Devarim 31:21) says about a later song, “This song shall speak as a witness, for it will not be forgotten from the mouths of their children.”

When the Iron Curtain fell, friends of ours hosted at their Seder a young family of recent immigrants whom they had befriended. The family brought their elderly grandmother, who spent the bulk of the evening sitting off to the side, disengaged and rather cold to the proceedings. When they reached the closing segment of the Seder, the last series of poems that are sung with fairly universal tunes, the bubbe suddenly perked up and began to join in with the singing. The words of the Seder and its rituals could not penetrate the wall around her heart, but the songs of her youth did. This woman had been effectively separated from the faith of her childhood for the seventy years of communism, but the song of faith endured.

This idea is conveyed by the striking contrast between our commemorations of the beginning of redemption on the first night of Pesach and its culmination on its seventh day. We begin the holiday with the Mitzvah of Hagaddah, teaching our children through words and actions the story of our redemption. We conclude the Yom Tov by singing Az Yashir, the song of redemption, the mechanism that will ensure that those lessons will be fully absorbed into our family’s very identity, never to be forgotten.

Each of us will be so much more connected to our faith and identity when we move from the words of faith to its song, by striving to fill our lives and our homes with the emotional, joyous, and uplifting expressions of our core beliefs and identity. “For it will not be forgotten from the mouths of their children.”