Parashat BeShallach contains the famous poem Az Yashir, which is recited during Tefillah every single day. The text of the Az Yashir and that of the other Biblical Shirot is written differently than the rest of the Torah. Usually, the words start at the beginning of the line and continue until the end. However, poems are written ״Ariach Al Gabei Leveinah,” “Organized like stacks of bricks” (Megillah 16b). The lines of Biblical poems alternate between two different structures. One line is written starting with text, then a large break, and then text at the end of the line. The next line will be structured in the opposite manner; it will start with a space, then text, and then more space.
Why are these Shirot written differently than the prose of the Torah? Rav Ahron Soloveichik suggested that all of the requisite information to understand prose is given in the text. With regards to poetry, the author deliberately leaves out some of the information, leaving the reader to speculate about what the author had in mind when writing the poem. This idea may apply to the Torah as well. The blank spaces in the text suggest there is room for interpretation.
Rav Yosef Adler, Rosh Yeshiva of TABC, suggested an example of how we can fill in these “blank spaces.” Rav Adler explained that the phrase “Zeh Keili VeAnveihu,” “This is my God and I will glorify him,” (Shemot 15:2) has three possible interpretations. Firstly, the Gemara teaches us that the phrase is the source for Hiddur Mitzvah, the Mitzvah to beautify other Mitzvot. By completing Mitzvot in a more beautiful manner, one accomplishes the goal of glorifying Hashem. Another opinion is that the word VeAnveihu is a contraction of the words Ani and Hu (I and He). The Pasuk is alluding to the many ways we can emulate Hashem, such as “Mah Hu Rofei Cholim, Af Ani Rofei Cholim” and “Mah Hu Rachum, Af Ani Rachum.” Just like Hashem heals the sick and is very merciful, so too everyone should try to help the sick and be merciful, among many other attributes. This is the first source in the Torah for trying to emulate Hashem. The last interpretation of the Pasuk is offered by the Targum. He translates the Pasuk as “VeEvnei Lei Makdesha Elaha,” “I will build Him a Divine home” (ibid.). According to Targum, this phrase is the source for the Mitzvah to build a Beit HaMikdash.
While these three interpretations may seem incongruous, they may actually be teaching the same idea. They all highlight the importance of conducting oneself in such a manner that everybody will recognize Hashem as the true God. The connection of the final interpretation is obvious; people will see the glorious Temple and recognize that it belongs to Hashem. The first two opinions set guidelines for how we should conduct ourselves. The concept of Ani VeHu dictates that our Bein Adam LaChaveiro actions (interpersonal relationships) must emulate the ways that Hashem behaves. God is the Rofei Cholim, so you must help the sick. God is Rachum, so you must be merciful. God is Malbish Arumim, so you must give clothes to those that need. These actions will publicize the way of Hashem to others. Another way to raise awareness of Hashem is by engaging in Hiddur Mitzvah; you should not just do the bare minimum required for a Mitzvah. If you just do a little, it will make it seem like you think that the Mitzvah is a burden. When you do the Mitzvah in the best possible way, in a way that is not necessary, you are exemplifying that Hashem is watching. You perform the Mitzvah in a way that is not required in order to please Hashem.
When Moshe first sang the words of Az Yashir, he and B’nei Yisrael were praising Hashem for freeing them from slavery. For them, the words had a clear and direct meaning as they emerged from the Yam Suf. The words “Zeh Keili VeAnveihu” were a praise of Hashem for the great miracle they had just witnessed. Today, as we hear the poetic words of Az Yashir ring out during Keriyat HaTorah, we have to internalize the message of “Zeh Keili VeAnveihu” that applies today. These words are not just a praise of the great miracles that Hashem did in the past; they serve as a reminder to bring glory to the name of Hashem. We must constantly emulate Hashem in our everyday conduct so that everybody will recognize the greatness of Hashem.