Thursday, April 09, 2015

Pesach 5631 Last Days Second Ma'amar

On the seventh day of Pesach the nation of Israel crossed the Red Sea and sang Shiras HaYam/The Song of the Sea.1 The Shirah starts with, “... אָשִׁירָה לַה' כִּי־גָאֹה גָּאָה .../I will sing to God for He is most exalted.” The double wording “גָאֹה גָּאָה/He is most exalted” implies that He is the epitome of exaltedness, of greatness. To say that the difference between God’s exaltedness and that of others is simply a matter of degree is difficult. Instead, the Sfas Emes explains that the double wording teaches us something about the relationship of the greatness of others to God. It implies that the greatness of all others are only for His glory whereas God’s glory is inherent. It has no ulterior reason. How so?

We find in Mishlei (16:18), “לִפְנֵי־שֶׁבֶר גָּאוֹן/Pride precedes destruction.” The greatness of the wicked glorifies God in their destruction. The greater they are, the greater the destruction when they fall and the greater God’s honor when they are destroyed. The greatness of the righteous glorifies God as well when the righteous person even in greatness subordinates himself to God and recognizes His benevolence. The greater the righteous the more he glorifies God when he acknowledges God’s kindnesses. We see that the greatness of others is not intrinsic. The greatness of others is defined by its relationship to God and how it brings out God's glory. God's glory, though, is independent.

According to this we can understand why we find in the Shirah, “אָמַר אוֹיֵב אֶרְדֹּף אַשִּׂיג .../The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will reach …” (Shmos 15:9) Why is this part of the Shirah? Do we care to know the intentions of the enemy? Is not the purpose of the Shirah to sing praises to God for having saved us? The Sfas Emes explains that this is exactly the reason that the enemy’s intentions are mentioned. The more impertinent the enemy the greater God’s glory when he is destroyed. The enemy’s intentions are followed directly with God’s action to destroy him, “נָשַׁפְתָּ בְרוּחֲךָ כִּסָּמוֹ יָם .../You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them …” (Shmos 15:10) The enemy’s impudence helped cause his own destruction.

1See Rashi on Shmos 14:5

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