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prayer pings #22

Shirat HaYam is not about retelling our story of redemption, and definitely not about mumbling familiar words as quickly as we can. Shirat HaYam is about actively reliving the moment when God saved us, such that it becomes the present. At the sea, we were fleeing not just from the Mitzrim, but also from the mindset of slavery-- the hopeless, defeated, and purposeless lives we had been living up until we stood at the edge of the sea. Because uttering the words 'Az yashir Moshe' is meant to activate a living experience of this redemption in the present moment, the Mishnah Berurah teaches us that we should say (even sing!) it with great joy-- the joy of one who is currently being liberated.

Why though, do Chazal insist on including this live and joyful redemption in our daily davening as the bridge to Shacharit?

The Midrash tells us, מיום שברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את העולם ועד שעמדו ישראל על הים לא מצינו אדם שאמר שירה להקב"ה אלא ישראל, "From the day when God created the world until Israel stood near the sea, no one except for Israel sang to God" (Shemot Rabbah Parshat Beshalach 23:4). Adam Harishon, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov-- none of them sang to God when He created, blessed, and saved them. It was not until B'nai Yisrael stood at the sea and sang Shirat HaYam, that God was praised with the joy unique to song. The Midrash concludes that when God heard Shirat HaYam He said, לאלו הייתי מצפה, "I have been waiting for these".

From this Midrash, we see that the praise God longs for most is that of song. One of the reasons He loves us is because of our capacity to sing to Him when no one else will. This is the mindset a Jew must carry with him or her throughout the day-- the commitment to praise God even when it is neither popular nor obvious to do so.

Additionally, in the transition from Pesukei DeZimra to Shacharit, we move from praying as individuals to praying as a kahal, a community of at least ten male adults who can respond to Barechu. This is the moment when we move from being separate people to being a community that is united in praising God. Historically, the way we achieved this transition was through Shirat HaYam-- it was a song that became a symphony of Jews praising God for giving us a life of hope, victory, and purpose.

This is then the reason why we say Shirat HaYam as we move into Shacharit: Through singing this song, we become a faithful people united in song, a remembering people who actively relive redemption on a daily basis, and a free people with only potential and the requisite joy to strongly and unyieldingly sing God's song. Shacharit is about to begin-- God is waiting for your song.

~Rabbanit Alissa

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780