Az Yashir: And They Said "Leimor"
אז ישיר משה... את השירה הזאת...ויאמרו לאמר Then Moshe chose to sing…this shirah…and they said leimor…
We begin this segment with some thought-provoking questions. This shiur is based on parts of maamar 8 in sefer Mizmor L’David, written by HaRav Moshe Gruen, conveying the Torah of his rebbe, HaRav Dovid Cohen, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshivas Chevron.
I. It seems odd that the word “az” refers to the past, while the word “yashir” is future tense. What is the purpose and message of this aberration?
II. The Midrash (Sh’mos Rabbah 23:1) quotes a pasuk in T’hilim (93:2): Nachon kis’acha mei’az.” Rabbi Berechyah says in the name of Rabbi Abahu that, until the Shirah, Hashem’s Throne was not established in the world. It was only when B’nei Yisrael sang Az Yashir that Hashem’s Throne was established. What precisely about Az Yashir was responsible for achieving this great accomplishment that had not been able to be achieved previously, since Creation?
III. Towards the end of the Shirah, we say “ה' ימלוך לעולם ועד–Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed (Hashem shall reign for all eternity).” Why did Moshe and B’nei Yisrael use future tense? Their awareness of Hashem being the Supreme and only King was at its clearest and strongest at that moment. Why would they only speak about the future?
IV. Targum Onkelos actually translates using present tense and then adds future. Why?
V. The word “leimor” (...את השירה הזאת...ויאמרו לאמר–es ha’shirah ha’zos…va’yomru leimor – and they said to say…) teaches (Talmud Yerushalmi Sotah 5:6) that the Shirah should be recited in future generations. Why?
The answer to all of these questions begins with understanding what “sh’leimus” – perfection or completeness – means in terms of Hashem’s Malchus (Kingdom). If it was only the generation that personally experienced K’rias Yam Suf that came to the clear recognition of Hashem’s Malchus, that would fall far short of establishing Hashem’s Malchus. It is only when their experience is transmitted and retained by all future generations that Hashem’s Malchus becomes established. Therefore, the crucial point of establishing Hashem’s Malchus was “leimor” – to continue the clear recognition by reciting the Shirah daily.
“Az” refers to the past events, but “yashir” teaches that it will be sung in future generations, as well. This aspect of future generations reciting the Shirah daily is why the Midrash states that it was only at the time of the Shirah that Hashem’s Throne was established, because now all future generations would recognize Hashem’s Kingdom daily through Az Yashir.
This also explains why they stressed the future in “Hashem yimloch.” The future recognition is the key. The Targum adds present tense so that we understand that certainly they, too, were proclaiming Hashem’s Malchus, although the primary focus was still on the future, hence the future tense.
Let us contemplate that when we say or sing the Shirah daily, we are actually the current link in the chain of establishing Hashem’s Malchus in the world. We are extending the awesome recognition and awareness that B’nei Yisrael merited at the time of K’rias Yam Suf.