Parasha Inspiration – Beshalach

אָ֣ז יָשִֽׁיר־משֶׁה֩ וּבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה וַיֹּֽאמְר֖וּ לֵאמֹ֑ר אָשִׁ֤ירָה לַּֽיהֹוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה ס֥וּס וְרֹֽכְב֖וֹ רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם: עָזִּ֤י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֔הּ וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִֽישׁוּעָ֑ה זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ אֱלֹהֵ֥י אָבִ֖י וַֽאֲרֹֽמְמֶֽנְהוּ:

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea. The Eternal’s strength and His vengeance were my salvation; this is my God, and I will make Him a habitation, the God of my father, and I will ascribe to Him exaltation.

Exodus 15:1-2

This week’s Torah portion contains one of the most unique sections of the entire Torah, The Song at the Sea. For that reason, this Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of the song.

Chapter 15 in Exodus is laid out quite differently from other sections of the Torah. It is immediately recognizable from other areas. Even the layout is an indicator that this section is different from the rest of Torah. It is different, both in terms of language and of content.

The language is poetic. It is beautifully constructed as one of the most emphatic examples of a power of praise to Hashem. Poetic license is used throughout the passage. We see terms that are only used in poetry and song, such as “Yah.” Hyperbole is extensive in the song. Its purpose is emotive, it is not part of the historical narrative of Torah. Rather, it is a prime example of how the children of Israel praise Hashem, exalting him in the extreme.

Because this section is a song, a poem, we cannot treat the language as if it were part of the historical narrative. We must understand that certain terminology is used specifically to create hyperbole. Other terms are used to create an effective poem, as opposed to trying to convey historical content. As such, the section must be appreciated for its beauty as poetry, for its emotional expression of thanks to Hashem, as opposed to historical accuracy. How should we praise Hashem? Look to the Song at the Sea as the example. Shabbat shalom.


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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.