In this week’s parsha we read one of the greatest songs ever sung. After experiencing the wondrous miracles of krias Yam Suf, Bnei Yisrael sang Az Yashir. At that moment, we are taught, even the simplest of Jews saw what Yecheskel HaNavi was not capable of seeing. The words of Az Yashir express that elevated appreciation of Hashem’s greatness.
Similarly, each day as we say Az Yashir, we should strengthen our emunah in Hashem by thinking of the miracles He performed at krias Yam Suf.
However, that leaves us with a question. We know that after Az Yashir Miriam HaNeviah and the women sang a second shirah. Why was that necessary? Was there something missing in Az Yashir that compelled the women to sing a new song? Also, throughout the Torah it is clear that the avodah done by the men was for all of Klal Yisrael, including the women, so why was there a need for a separate shirah here?
There are some noticeable differences between the two shiros. For one, the lengths are significantly different. While Az Yashir is very long, the song sung by the women has only nine words. Secondly, there were musical instruments used by the women, whereas by Az Yashir is not accompanied by musical instruments. However, there is one striking similarity. The words sung by Miriam and the righteous women are almost exactly the same as words found in Az Yashir.
So why sing it? If the second shirah does not add any new ideas or even words, what was its purpose? Let’s take a closer look at the personality of Miriam to understand what took place.
Miriam was one of the seven nevios. Her prophecy came at a young age when she told her father Amram to remarry her mother Yocheved. Miriam said that the redeemer of Klal Yisrael would be born from this reunion. When Moshe was set out in a basket on the river, she followed behind to see what would happen. Both of these acts demonstrated her deep faith in Hakadosh Baruch Hu. In truth, all women have a natural emunah that runs deep within them. While in Mitzrayim, the women never gave up and continued having children even though the men were reluctant. It is the different levels of emunah which exist between men and women which can be used to explain the different songs sung by each.
The Gemara in Chagigah (13) says that everything Yecheskel HaNavi saw was also seen by Yeshaya HaNavi. The reason Yecheskel’s description of Hashem’s throne is so much more detailed can be explained in this way: Two people witnessed a royal procession, one was a resident of the capital and the other was a simple villager. The villager wasn’t accustomed to seeing such a grand sight so he spent a long time describing what he saw. For the resident of the capital, it wasn’t an unusual occurrence so he didn’t feel the need to describe what he saw in great detail. For Yecheskel, the vision of Hashem’s throne was a greater experience since he wasn’t accustomed to seeing it. Therefore, his description of his vision provides great detail. However, Yeshaya had seen Hashem’s throne many times, so he didn’t write about it extensively.
The same can be said about Shiras HaYam.
For the men, the krias Yam Suf, with all its miracles, was more unexpected. Thus, Az Yashir goes into great detail because for the men there was a new realization of Hashem’s greatness. The women, however, experienced krias Yam Suf differently. Rashi explains that the women took instruments with them from Mitzrayim because they knew that there would be future miracles. There was no doubt in their minds that Hashem would watch over them and they packed accordingly. The women’s shirah was shorter for the same reason. The women didn’t have the same reaction to krias Yam Suf as the men. Much like the capital resident, they lived with Hashem, feeling His constant presence and hashgacha pratis. Therefore, their shirah was shorter.
We can now understand why there were two separate shirot. For the men it was one of revelation. They experienced a new understanding of Hashem’s greatness. For the women, however, it was the song of appreciation for something they already knew. Thus, we see that the greater one’s emunah is the greater one’s closeness to Hashem. A woman’s inherent emunah strengthens the entire nation. And a mother or wife spreads this connection to her whole family. The Jewish women are the keepers of Klal Yisrael‘s emunah.
May we be zocheh to always strengthen our emunah and thus be worthy of singing the final shirah.