This week is Shabbos Shirah. In actual fact there are two songs in the Sedra; the one sung by the men and the other by the women. There is only one phrase that makes it into both songs, thus indicating that it is the essence of the whole Shirah. The phrase is, “I will sing to Hashem for He is exalted above all exaltedness, a horse and its rider He heaved into the sea[1]”.

In order to understand why this is the most fundamental line of the Shirah, and why this encapsulates the essence of the Shirah, we must first explain this expression. Why the mention of the horses, surely it’s just

the Egyptians we care about? Furthermore why mention the horse before the person[2]? What is this double expression, “exalted above all exaltedness”? It would seem logical that this double expression of praise is due to the situation at hand, i.e. the heaving of the horse and rider into the sea, but how does this warrant this double expression? Rashi brings the Mechilta to explain, that Hashem dragged the horse and its rider while still coupled together through the sea. This is why we mention the horses, and also why we mention them first - so as to indicate that something different was going on here. When Hashem wages war He does so in a way totally unlike that of humans. We do battle by throwing off the rider from his horse, whereas Hashem destroyed the Egyptians while still connected to their horses.

But we must ask what does this mean that Hashem destroys the rider while still on the horse? The Sefas Emes[3] explains that this miracle shows us the depth and the reality of Hashems running of the world. We are accustomed to think that the world runs on “cause and effect”. I do ‘x’ then ‘y’ happens. I work hard then I earn more money. If the President of America is supportive of Israel then things are easier for Israel. The examples are endless.

The world itself as we see it without thinking, lends itself to this attitude. טבע – nature, seems to be in control. I water the plant then it grows. If I don’t it dies. However the truth is that every bit of ‘teva’ is just really a miracle. In fact the letters of Hashems name אלקים share the same numerical value (of 86) as ‘הטבע’ – ‘the nature’. Because when we look properly at ‘teva’ we see that it is really ‘Elokim’. The name אלקים actually describes Hashem being master of all i.e. master of even what seems to have its own power – ‘teva’.

This is the central message of the Shira, to realize that the rider who seems to be in the control seat; he appears to be running the show, really is just a puppet in the hand of Hashem. Even whilst he is riding, even when we think it is ‘teva’ who governs the world; at that very time it is Hashem who is controlling everything. Both the rider together with his chariot are in Hashems hands to do with them as He seems fit.

Now we can understand the double expression of praise. Hashem is ‘supremely exalted’, totally above the comprehension of man, as is seen by His ‘show’ of destroying the riders together with their horses.

[1] Shemos 15:1, 15:21

[2] Maskil L’Dovid

[3] Parshas Beshalach תרלה - as heard expounded by R’ A Mandelbaum Shlita








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