B’shalach

The Shabbat of Parshas B’shalach is also known as Shabbat Shirah. Rav Pincus notes that “shirah” – a time of song – is not reserved for that once instance in history, when we arrived on safe shores, on the other side of the Yam Suf. The concept of shirah – singing out in praise, appreciation, love, adoration of the Borei Olam – should ideally be a dominant part of every day of our lives. Dovid HaMelech spent entire nights writing song and praise, composing Tehillim, etc. Singing praise of Hashem is a “chovas kol ha’yetzurim lifanecha,” as we say every Shabbat in the teffila of Nishmas kol chai. There is a chova – an obligation of every human being – to sing shirah to Hashem for all the wonderful gifts He bestows upon us every day.

Gemara Psachim 118a says:
קשין מזונותיו של אדם כקריעת ים סוף, דכתיב (תהילים קלו:כה) נותן לחם לכל בשר וסמיך ליה לגוזר ים סוף לגזרים

How do we understand that providing food for one’s self (and family) is as difficult as Krias Yam Suf?

It’s a real avodah and takes real effort to acknowledge Hashem, and not take for granted the simplest sustenance, possessions and abilities we have been given. But, says Rav Pincus, when we come home at night and open our refrigerators to find food, that itself is like Krias Yam Suf, and is worthy of pausing to “say shira”. No doubt, that being makir tov to Hashem constantly throughout the day is a tremendously lofty endeavor, but it an important ideal to strive for, even if one can only achieve a fraction of the total goal. Saying shirah is something that we have to train ourselves to do on a more regular basis.

One final thought: Rav Pincus quotes Rebbe Yeshoshua ben Levi, who says (Sanhedrin 91a): “Kol ha’omer shirah ba’olam ha’zeh, zocheh v’omrah l’olam haba”
This gemara was a particularly difficult idea for me to reconcile, in thinking about the yahrtzeit this Shabbat. One cannot understand why a person like Daniella, who spent so much of olam ha’zeh singing shira, was taken to olam haba now, so swiftly, so young. But I saw another idea in Rav Pincus that brought some comfort that I would like to share…

Shir HaShirim 2:14, says:
יוֹנָתִי בְּחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע בְּסֵתֶר הַמַּדְרֵגָה הַרְאִינִי אֶת מַרְאַיִךְ הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת קוֹלֵךְ
My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your countenance, let me hear your voice.

Rashi comments on this passuk that the dove Shlomo HaMelech is referring to is a mashal for Bnei Yisrael in Parshas B’shalach.
Bnei Yisrael fleeing Paraoh is akin to a dove hiding in the clefts of a rocky cliff. The dove has gone there to hide from the predatory hawk but inside the rocky refuge is a snake. So too Bnei Yisrael were caught between the Yam Suf in front of them (snake), and the entire Egyptian army bearing down on them from behind (hawk). With nowhere to turn, Hashem says to us – ‘show me your face; show me to whom do you turn when you are in distress?’
הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת קוֹלֵךְ — Let me hear your voice; Rashi explains this to mean – to whom do you call out in a time of tzara?

Very often, during times of tzara there is no answer or explanation. While asking for an answer may be fruitless, it also doesn’t mean we stay silent, wallowing in sadness. It is my belief that the mitzvos, and shalosh seudot and torah learning, and increased sensitivity to others, etc. that took place in the wake of Daniella’s passing is our  קוֹלֵךְ — our “calling out”. There is no answer to be had for why tragedy occurs; the best we can do is ensure an increase of G-dliness in the world through the actions by those still in olam ha’zeh and able to perform mitzvos. Hashem asks the dove in it’s time of sorrow – ‘to whom do you call out’ – and we have responded: ‘To You, Hashem.’

In the first dvar torah after Daniella’s passing, for Parshas Yisro, I quoted from Tehillim 92:13-14:
צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה
שְׁתוּלִים בְּבֵית ה’ בְּחַצְרוֹת אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ יַפְרִיחוּ

tzaddik grows like a cedar tree; beyond any normal bounds. Why? The message of Dovid HaMelech’s beautiful poetry is that a tzaddik ultimately grows in a world without boundaries; he or she grows in Hashem’s garden. It flourishes in Hashem’s palace. Tzaddikim are hopefully given many years in this world to influence others and allow others to learn from them, but the main flourishing of a tzaddik occurs beyond this world.

My hope is that through Daniella’s own abundant zechuyos, and through our קוֹלֵךְ and the proliferation of mitzvos and learning that have been undertaken in her memory, that her neshama continues to grow and be elevated like a soaring tree “b’veis Hashem,” and that in turn, her family and friends feel more of her presence and guidance in this world.

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