The Wizard of Az

I have a theory: Any time a single stream of water is split into multiple streams, the people who are there to witness it will automatically break into a song. Just think about it. The splitting of the sea over 3,000 years ago caused a whole nation to sing Az Yashir - אז ישיר; and to this day the modern perforated shower-head that splits and sprays water also somehow compels people to belch out tunes while showering. (I know that you’re thinking, “With theories like this one you should be published in a much more distinguished journal.” That may be true, however, not everyone is fully appreciated during their lifetime.)

All joking aside. There is a puzzling Midrash in Shemos Rabbah: Moshe said to Hashem, “I know I sinned with Az - אז when it says מאז באתי אל פרעה. Now you drowned him in the sea - therefore I will praise you with אז. As it says אז ישיר משה. Come and see the ways of tzaddikim - the same way they falter, they fix.

The Maharal elucidates why the word Az - אז is the word that references Shira-song. The word Az consists of an Alef riding atop, or in front of, a Zayin. It is essentially the value of “one” on top of “seven.” The Torah’s general use of the number seven symbolizes the totality of possibilities in this world (see Devorim 28:7 and Mishlei 24:16). The Alef preceding that represents “The One” (aka Hashem) that is in control of all possibilities and multiplicity that we see in this world. Hashem is the Ultimate Unifier of all the myriads of details in the universe and He directs it all towards a common purpose. Why does the word Az -אז so aptly represent this concept?

The word Az-אז in Hebrew is used interchangeably to describe the past (see Breishis 4:26) and the future (see Tehillim 126:2). The word Az-אז is above time. It’s not limited to describe solely the past or solely the future. Rav Chaim Friedlander z”l explains that time is hidden from mere mortals. While in our physical bodies, our souls can never experience the totality of time in one single moment. In order to experience our past we must employ our memories. In order to experience our future we must activate our imagination. We can only experience the present at any given moment. When the soul departs the body, however,  those restrictions are released and we are able to see above time - past, present, and future.

The hiddenness of time is the reason behind anyone questioning the ways of Hashem. When Moshe said to G-d Me’Az Dibarti - מאז דברתי - he was in the midst of a test of his faith in G-d. The correct response to Pharaoh hardening his decrees should’ve been silence and acceptance on the part of Moshe. All the difficulties that transpired in Egypt was just a set up for the incredible miracles that were to occur at the splitting of the sea. When the Jews were finally at the sea, Hashem lifted the Jewish people’s vision above time. Even a lowly maidservant was able to see that which the great prophet Yechezkel could not. They reached the level of Va’Yaaminu Ba’Hashem U’Bi’Moshe Avdo - ויאמינו בד׳ ובמשה עבדו.  They experienced the past, present, and future in one single moment...אז ישיר משה ובני ישראל.

When a Jew contemplates and collects his or her life experiences and begins to thread them together, they experience Az - אז. They experience the Alef riding above, guiding and unifiying the multiplicity symbolized by the Zayin. That’s when they break into song. The moment the Jews witnessed a single flow of water become multiple streams and then again become unified is when they broke into song. May we merit to witness the future redemption when the Ultimate Unifier-the “Wizard of Az”- will inspire us to sing...  אז ימלא שחוק פינו -  ולשוננו רנה - Then (Az) our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.