A Song of Pride by Rabbi Joel Grossman


This week’s Parsha includes the story of Keriat Yam Suf, the splitting of the sea.  Following this incident, the Jewish people are inspired to sing the Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea.  One of this song’s most famous phrases is “Zeh Keili Veanveihu” (15:2) Rashi quotes three explanations for the word Veanveihu.  First, Targum Onkelos says it means “I will establish a dwelling place for Him,” meaning that the Jewish people will build the Beit Hamikdash, in which Hashem will rest His Shechinah.  Second, the Gemara in Shabbat 133b interprets it as “I will beautify Him” - the Jewish people promised to beautify the Mitzvot.  Third, it means “I will glorify Him” by singing of His awesomeness.

In Darash Moshe, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l teaches us that all three meanings are interconnected.  It is human nature to want to beautify personal belongings such as our homes, furnishings, and clothing.  Similarly, one who considers the Torah to be among his essential needs will want to beautify it as much as possible.  He will be careful not to let the Mitzvot seem like a heavy burden, something that is just there to cramp his lifestyle.  Just as we have a feeling of pride in our material possessions, we should also be inspired to take pride in the Torah we study and the Mitzvot we fulfill.  Even though we are supposed to control the feeling of pride (note the Mishnah in Avot, which states that if we study a lot of Torah we should not think we are great, because we were created for this purpose), we should nonetheless take pride for our accomplishments.  If someone does not have this feeling, it is because he does not consider Torah and Mitzvot as an accomplishment worthy of being proud of.

All the interpretations of Rashi stem from Targum Onkelos, who stated that Veanveihu refers to creating a place for Hashem to live.  Just as we are proud of our homes, we should want to make the Beit Hamikdash a wonderful physical dwelling place.  We should also want to apply this pride to our accomplishments in Torah and Mitzvot and to praise Hashem for giving them to us.

Many years ago when I was seventeen years old, I spent a year of study at Ner Yisrael Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland.  There I met a young man named Yitzchak Hirschprung from Montreal, Canada, who was blessed with a photographic memory.  He had mastered five entire Masechtot during afternoon Seder that year.  He attended Johns Hopkins college in the evening and returned to the Beit Medrash shortly before midnight to resume his studies.  After observing this night after night I finally asked him, “If you know the Gemara by heart already, why do you come back to learn it again after such a long day of Torah study and college courses?”  He replied, “I still have a Mitzvah of Talmud Torah.”  This story made a profound impression on my life, as I discovered first‑hand the importance of Torah study.

We must take to heart this lesson about Torah study and the fulfillment of Mitzvot.  They should be viewed as wonderful opportunities to come close to Hashem, and we should feel good about our success in these areas, because we were created for this purpose.  In this way, we will continually be able to sing our Shirah to Hashem and be able to glorify Hashem by our actions.  The Talmud in Yoma teaches us when we study Torah, do acts of kindness, and act properly towards people, we cause people to love Hashem.  May we be Zoche to fulfill this statement so people will see our actions and say about each one of us “blessed is his parents who taught him Torah and blessed is his teacher who taught him Torah”.  In this way we shall bring glory to Hashem.

Split by Dov Rossman

Warning! by Chaim Cohen