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לימוד תורה

The journey’s song to the Good Land

The Parasha in our everyday life- Veshalach-Shira - Tu Bi'Shvat 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Rosh Yeshivat Hesder 'Meir Harel' Modi'in

Nothing has the power to affect and change a person's mood from A to Z, and put a smile on their lips like singing and music. When sadness hit Saul’s spirit, his men asked for him:

יֹֽאמַר־נָ֤א אֲדֹנֵ֙נוּ֙ עֲבָדֶ֣יךָ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ יְבַקְשׁ֕וּ אִ֕ישׁ יֹדֵ֖עַ מְנַגֵּ֣ן בַּכִּנּ֑וֹר וְהָיָ֗ה בִּֽהְי֨וֹת עָלֶ֤יךָ רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹקים֙ רָעָ֔ה וְנִגֵּ֥ן בְּיָד֖וֹ וְט֥וֹב לָֽךְ׃ 

“Let our lord give the order [and] the courtiers in attendance on you will look for someone who is skilled at playing the lyre; whenever the evil spirit of G-d comes over you, he will play it and you will feel better.” (Samuel I 16:16)

How wonderful and soothing is the mother's song to the fruit of her womb from the first day of man’s life. And so, at all times in joy and in sorrow. It is not for nothing that we compare a person's life, their meaning and creation, as 'the song of his life'.

There is nothing like the words of poetry that come from the depths of the soul, with the purity of the heart, that have the power to elevate the spirit to heights and insights that ordinary expressions- prose, cannot. They empower the mind and refresh tired and worn-out forces, and to give life a sublime meaning. Evidence of this is the extent of the consumption of music playing and singing.

This is true for individuals as much as for the entire public; the power of songs that come from a high and valued spirit, of writers who uplift the spirit of the people.

The late Rabbi Kook Z’L had the soul of a poet, a writer, and longed for someone to come and compose the Song of repentance and resurrection:

"וקום יקום לנו משורר התשובה, שהוא יהיה משורר החיים, משורר התחיה, משוררה של הנשמה הלאומית ההולכת להיגאל

"Let there be a writer of repentance for us, who will be the poet of life, the poet of resurrection, the poet of the national soul on its way to be redeemed." (Orot HaTeshuva 17:5)

The soundtrack of the pioneer songs accompanied the challenges of the pioneers in building the colonies and plowing the furrows in the field, instilling in them the courage and strength, vision and hope, that they needed.

It has always been like this throughout the nation's journey, through its generations. For example, the song "Jerusalem of Gold" lifted the spirits of the people from the anxieties on the eve of the Six Day War, and accompanied the warriors as an anthem, which gave them energy and mental strength in combat, often more than any words of reinforcement, speech or discourse.

Shabbat Beshalach is also called 'Shabbat Shira', because we read in the Parasha "The Song of the Red Sea" about the parting of the Red Sea. But it is also an opportunity to engage and observe the value of songs and their contribution to our private and national lives.

The Song has two parts:

The first is a hymn of thanksgiving for the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. And in the second is about the journey to the Land of Israel:

נָחִ֥יתָ בְחַסְדְּךָ֖ עַם־ז֣וּ גָּאָ֑לְתָּ נֵהַ֥לְתָּ בְעׇזְּךָ֖ אֶל־נְוֵ֥ה קׇדְשֶֽׁךָ… 

"In Your love You lead the people You redeemed;

In Your strength You guide them to Your holy abode.

 תְּבִאֵ֗מוֹ וְתִטָּעֵ֙מוֹ֙ בְּהַ֣ר נַחֲלָֽתְךָ  מָכ֧וֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ֛ פָּעַ֖לְתָּ ה' מִקְּדָ֕שׁ אֲדֹנָ֖י כּוֹנְנ֥וּ יָדֶֽיךָ

You will bring them and plant them in Your own mountain,

The place You made to dwell in, Hashem,

The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands established”. (Shmot 15:13,17)

נהלת בעזך -מנהל אתה את ישראל עכשיו, כדי להכניסם ולהורישם את ארץ כנען שהוא נוה קדשך.

 “You are guiding the Israelites now in order to bring them into the Holy Land to give it to them as an ancestral possession. The land of Canaan will then be called נוה קדשך, “residence of Your Holiness.” (Rashbam ibid)

The journey to the good land, was the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt, as it was said by the burning bush:

…רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃ וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ טוֹבָה֙ וּרְחָבָ֔ה אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ…

…“I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… (Shmot 3:7-8)

Just as Parashat Lech-Lecha is the journey of Abraham and his family to Eretz Israel and to the unknown, so is Parashat Beshalach the journey of the nation to Eretz Israel and to the unknown. ‘The Song of the Red Sea’ was about overcoming the obstacles on the way.

On Monday, we will be celebrating Tu Bi'Shvat, Rosh Hashana of the trees. A holiday of the Land of Israel,  its fruits, and the commandments dependent on the Land. Yaakov Avinu calls the fruits of the land - 'Zimrat Ha'aretz' – Choice products:

קְח֞וּ מִזִּמְרַ֤ת הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ בִּכְלֵיכֶ֔ם וְהוֹרִ֥ידוּ לָאִ֖ישׁ מִנְחָ֑ה מְעַ֤ט צֳרִי֙ וּמְעַ֣ט דְּבַ֔שׁ נְכֹ֣את וָלֹ֔ט בׇּטְנִ֖ים וּשְׁקֵדִֽים׃

..."take some of the choice products of the land in your baggage, and carry them down as a gift for the man—some balm and some honey, gum, ladanum, pistachio nuts, and almonds". (Bereshit 43:11)  

לשון שבח וזמר ממה שבני אדם רגילין לשבח בהם את הארץ שאומרים כמה טובה ארץ ישראל שיש בה פירות טובות כאילו מזמרין ומשבחין את הארץ:

"Zimrat [Haaretz] - a language of praise and song, the best, what people use to exemplify when praising the land, when saying 'how good is the land of Israel that has good fruits like these', and sing and praise the land" (Bechor Shor ibid).

The custom of planting on Tu Bi'Shvat with the renewal of Zionism was part of the loving journey to Israel, and the taking roots in the beloved land. “Zimrat Haaretz” 'Song of the Land' continues as the 'March of the Journey to the Inheritance of the Land'', in the songs of its pure-hearted writers, from the poetry of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi to the poets of our time, who write love songs for the Land of Israel - 'ארצנו הקטנטונת, ארצנו היפה', 'Our tiny land, our beautiful land'. In every generation enemies arise who seek to inherit it from us.

You become part of the song of this land’s journey, by walking in it 'במקל ובתרמיל' ‘with a backpack and a stick' to 'meet the Land of Israel on the way again', 'לפגוש בדרך שוב את ארץ ישראל' from the settlement and also from the wars over it.

Because from then until today the journey has not ended and its song has not died down.

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