Az Yashir: For He is Exalted Above the Arrogant
כי גאה גאה …for He is exalted above the arrogant
The double usage of the same root word here teaches us that the lesson learned here is extremely important – above all other lessons. We are not just thanking Hashem for His awesome lovingkindness and miracles. We are not simply recognizing His awesome power and total control, which we have written about previously. Here, we are thanking Hashem for “going out of His way” to perform all these awesome miracles so that we can acquire the gift of “דעת–daas,” which is the primary success of man. Hashem could have killed the Mitzriyim in a much simpler way, without all the fanfare; but for our benefit, He performed all these spectacular miracles so that B’nei Yisrael then – and we today (as we recite the Shirah daily) – can integrate and inculcate “דעה–dei’ah” into ourselves.
Why is “dei’ah” so crucially important, and what is “dei’ah”? The Gemara in B’rachos (33a) states that one who has “dei’ah” “within him,” it is as if the Beis HaMikdash has been built in his days. What does this Gemara mean to teach us?
The purpose of the Beis HaMikdash was to inspire and transform us in yir’as Hashem. It was a power plant, a generator of yir’as Shamayim. There is an incredible incident related in the Midrash. When the Romans conquered the Beis HaMikdash, they were afraid to enter it. A wicked Jew by the name of Yosef MiShisa said he would go in. He entered and came out carrying the Menorah. The Romans told him that he can go back in and take anything he wants, but he cannot keep the Menorah. He refused to go back in. They threatened him with a most painful death but he still refused. Yosef MiShisa was put to death, making a kiddush Hashem while he was dying, as he proclaimed, “Woe is to me that I angered my Master.”
This incident is perplexing. What caused the sudden transformation of someone so bold and wicked who dared to do what even the Romans were afraid to do? How could someone in a matter of what was likely a few minutes, go from being such a wicked person to one willing to give up his life and endure tremendous pain? The Ponevezher Rav explains that it was a moment in the Beis HaMikdash. That was enough to cause the transformation.
HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l explains that “dei’ah” means that one is “so clearly convinced of the presence of Hashem, that all he lacks is actually seeing Him.” Such a person will act, speak, and think differently. That person will constantly be aware of Hashem’s presence. What the Gemara in B’rachos 33a is teaching us is that one who has reached this extremely elevated level has already achieved what the purpose of the Beis HaMikdash was, and therefore it is as if it was already built in his days.
When we say our phrase, “כי גאה גאה–ki ga’oh ga’ah,” we are thanking Hashem for the gift of enhanced “dei’ah” through each of the miracles. Although “dei’ah” at the level of K’rias Yam Suf, as well as the person being described in the Gemara, are likely out of the reach of almost all of us, we still do have the opportunity every day, as we recite these words and so many others in tefilah, to drive home deeper and deeper within ourselves that we are always in the presence of Hashem.
(based primarily on Tefilas Avigdor and Toras Avigdor, with parts from HaRav Zev Smith in the sefer, Why We Weep)