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Shabbat Parashat Beshalach 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: My Work is Drowning and You Will Sing?

Harav Shaul Yisraeli - from Siach Shaul, pg. 224-225

At the sea, when Bnei Yisrael were saved and the Egyptian’s were drowning, the angels asked to sing a song of praise before Hashem. However, Hashem told them: “The work of my hands is drowning in the sea, and you will sing before Me?” (Sanhedrin 39b). While the angels were not to sing, Bnei Yisrael certainly did sing. Why should there be a difference?

The usual answer is that Bnei Yisrael were involved as recipients of the miracle, and, therefore, it was appropriate for them to sing. However, this does not suffice to explain why Bnei Yisrael’s singing was so appropriate that the midrash says that “Hashem’s throne was not settled in the world until Bnei Yisrael sang.” How could such a song be so important for the world yet inappropriate for the angels?

There were two opposite and opposing worlds before man was created: the spiritual world (olam ha’atzilut), to which the angels belonged, and the physical, material world, as we know our world to be. When Hashem consorted with the angels about creating man, who would contain elements of both, they objected: “What is man that You should think of him” (Tehillim 8:5; see Sanhedrin 38b). What would this hybrid be, and what would a being do with these opposing forces within himself?

In Hashem’s kindness, He gave this creation some of His own power, not only as a creation, but to a certain extent, for man to be a creator (see Sanhedrin 65b). By containing these two basic elements of the world, man is able to connect between them. While elsewhere, the worlds exist separately, within man there is a fierce battle between them, and the fortune of the world depends on the result of this battle. Hashem created these forces to always compete, and, therefore, as the power of sanctity grows, so does the opposing power. This is what Chazal meant by the statement, “Whoever is greater than his counterpart, his evil inclination is greater, as well.” If a person succeeds in overcoming his internal material side, an external opposing force crops up. The opposing forces will have a decisive clash at the end of days (see Ovadya 1:21).

The world of angels cannot conquer the world of materialism because the angels have no contact with it. Only man can conquer materialism. At the sea, there was such a battle. Bnei Yisrael displayed willingness to put their lot in Hashem’s hands, and the Egyptians decided to continue the chase. However, the dedication of Bnei Yisrael won out. This victory of the spirit was a formative event in the history of the world. That is why the song of praise of the human victors of the spirit had the cosmic impact which we mentioned above. This is something that the song of the angels could not have had. Therefore, the angels’ song was dispensable and, indeed, inappropriate under the circumstances.

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Hemdat Yamim

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