Shiras Hayam and Techiyas Hameisim

Az yashir Moshe (Shemos 15:1)

After witnessing the drowning of their Egyptian pursuers in the Yam Suf, the Jewish people were moved to praise Hashem and express their gratitude to Him through song. However, in introducing the words of the song, the Torah records, “Then Moshe and the Children of Israel will sing this song to Hashem,” which seems to be grammatically inaccurate. When discussing a song that was already sung, why is the verb written in the future tense? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (91b) explains that this grammatical anomaly alludes to the concept of techiyas hameisim and the song of praise that will be sung in the future at that time. While this is a fascinating idea, it still begs the question: Why did Hashem specifically hint to the future resurrection here as opposed to any other place in the Torah?

At the end of World War II, the Belzer Rebbe, Harav Aharon Rokeach, zy”a, worked tirelessly to gather his Chassidim in order to inspire them and give them the strength to rebuild. On their first Shabbos together, he quickly realized that as Holocaust survivors who had endured indescribable suffering and had lost virtually everything they had, they were in no mood to sing zemiros. The Rebbe decided to address his broken Chassidim and raised the question of why the Torah specifically alludes to techiyas hameisim in conjunction with the song that was sung celebrating the splitting of the Yam Suf?

The Belzer Rebbe explained that as lofty and climactic a moment as Shiras Hayam may have appeared to the naked eye, for those who were actually living through it, it was bittersweet. While they were certainly grateful and appreciative for their miraculous salvation from the hands of their sadistic Egyptian oppressors, the majority of the Jewish people were not there to experience it, as Rashi writes (13:18) that four-fifths of the nation died during the plague of darkness and did not merit the redemption. If 80 percent of the Jewish people died in such a short period of time, it is safe to assume that virtually everybody who did merit being saved had relatives who were not as fortunate. As such, as great as their personal feelings of joy and relief may have been, they were tempered by the recognition that they were unable to share them with their loved ones who had recently passed away.

The Rebbe posited that when Moshe came to the Jewish people and suggested that they all sing a song of praise to Hashem, they responded in disbelief, “How can you expect us to be capable of singing? Four-fifths of Klal Yisrael is missing!” When Moshe heard that, he told them that the Torah’s discussion of the very song he wanted them to sing hints to the future resurrection, at which time they will be reunited with all of their deceased friends and relatives. This awareness consoled the people and cheered them up so that they were able to sing with joyous hearts, a thought which also comforted the grieving Belzer Chassidim and enabled them to open up and sing Shabbos zemiros with their Rebbe.

More recently, there was a widow whose only son died fighting for the Israeli army during the 1982 war in Lebanon. The loss of all she had left in this world rendered her inconsolable. She refused to go to any family celebrations, explaining that she could never again experience joy and happiness. Some time later, she went to a relative’s funeral in the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem. After the burial, she stopped at the grave of the great Harav Aryeh Levin, zt”l, who was also buried there, to pray.

The aggrieved mother noticed the following written on his tombstone: “Every person who comes to pray at my grave should verbally declare: ‘I believe with complete faith that the Resurrection of the Dead will take place when it is Hashem’s Will that this occur.’” When the woman contemplated these words, the message penetrated to her core and allowed her to emotionally accept that there would come a time when she would get her son back. Rav Aryeh’s posthumous message enabled her to return to normal life, buoyed by her hope and confidence in techiyas hameisim.

Q: Rashi writes (17:16) that yud-hei is considered an incomplete name of Hashem’s, as it is missing the final two letters (vav-hei) until Amalek is completely obliterated. The Gemara in Sotah (17a) states that if a husband and wife are meritorious, the Divine Presence will dwell between them. Rashi there explains that the Hebrew word for man (ish) contains the letter yud from Hashem’s name and the word for woman (ishah) contains the letter hei from Hashem’s name. Why does Rashi seem to imply that even in the best-case scenario, a righteous and loving couple will only merit the dwelling in their home of an incomplete name of Hashem?

A: Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, suggests that Hashem initially blesses a couple with only part of His name in order to give them a foundation on which to build and expand, but they must be cognizant of the fact that this level is incomplete and it is up to them to complete Hashem’s name and bring His blessing into their home through their actions.


 

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.