Parshas Beshalach: Songs of the Soul

We find the words Shira and Zimra in this week’s Haftorah as Devora begins her song. She uses the two words אָשִׁירָה אֲזַמֵּר, two words that seem to mean the same thing, “I will sing”. These two words are found all over our Tefilot and in fact, one whole section of our Tefillah is called Pesukai D’Zimra. What is the difference between the two seemingly similar expressions of song? 

Rav Schwab in his book on prayer suggests that these two words complement each other. He explains that the root word Shir connotes connection, based on the way the term is used in the Mishnah in Shabbos in the context of an animal on a leash (Shir). Singing to Hashem attaches us to our G-d - we are tethered and connected through the musical aspects of prayer.

By contrast, the root of the word Zimra is pruning - we become closer to Hashem by removing any extraneous thoughts, by eliminating misdirected intentions. When singing a zemer, the world of the physical is removed and our thoughts are purified and elevated directed toward our Maker.  

Shira and Zemira connect us to our Creator by moving us away from our mundane lives toward holiness - all through music. Pesukei D’Zimra is our daily space to enact these two ideals - Shira and Zimra - “attach” and “remove”. Our Tefillah experience creates the environment through song where we find Hashem and connect to Him while removing ourselves from the physical distractions of our everyday life.  

!‘אָנֹכִי אָשִׁירָה אֲזַמֵּר לַה 

 These words resonate for me personally as we celebrate the conclusion of second cycle of Torat Imecha Nach Yomi. Participants across the world are connecting daily through the words of our sacred texts. Knowing that there are women in France, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Canada, America and tens of other countries listening to the same holy words binds us together. Regardless of our native tongue, we offer songs of praise. May the Torah’s words continue to inspire and uplift us no matter where in the world we find ourselves.