SONG OF SONGS
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman
This Shabbat is one of the few throughout the year that is given a special name. The day we read Parshat Beshalach is called Shabbat Shira (the Shabbat of Song), commemorating the glorious and awe-inspiring event when, after the miraculous deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Children of Israel simultaneously burst forth into a song of praise to Hashem.
This Shabbat is one of the few throughout the year that is given a special name. The day we read Parshat Beshalach is called Shabbat Shira (the Shabbat of Song), commemorating the glorious and awe-inspiring event when, after the miraculous deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Children of Israel simultaneously burst forth into a song of praise to Hashem. However, beyond giving praise to Hashem for miraculously saving us, the concept of shira (song) has a far deeper significance in correlation to our mission and goal in life.
The great Talmudic sage Hillel taught in Ethics of Our Fathers, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" The Chiddushei Harim, a great Chassidic Rebbe and one of the outstanding Talmudic scholars of the 19th century, explains that everyone is born with certain G-d given talents, strengths, and perceptions; has his own unique personality traits, likes, and dislikes; and is born and raised in a specific environment, with specific parents, siblings, etc. All of these factors are given to each one of us individually as our special tools with which to accomplish our own unique mission in life. Therefore, by definition, no two people are exactly alike since each human being has his own unique situations and circumstances. No two people relate to Torah in exactly the same manner. No two people perceive an event in exactly the same way. Each person has his own unique perceptions of life's experiences.
Each of our individual missions in life can be likened to another piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle that, when completed, will bring the final redemption. True, one individual may have a larger piece of the puzzle than another, but the fact is that without even the smallest piece, the puzzle remains incomplete. This statement from our sages is highlighting this concept: "If I am not for myself" - if I do not accomplish my unique mission, which only I can accomplish, then "who will be for me?" - no one else can do what I can do!
After our earthly abode, we will ascend into a purely spiritual dimension to give an accounting of ourselves before the heavenly court. Did we fulfill our mission, our unique potential during our transmigration on earth? At that time, each individual will give his shira, song. This shira is the accomplishment that each of us made in our lives. Each of us will have to give an accounting of how we contributed to the sanctification of G-d's name and the spread of His glory in this world.
Ironically, those very aspects in our lives that we looked upon as misfortunes and handicaps, whether in personality or in physicality, will be our crown of glory when we get to the world of truth. For example, a blind or slow-witted person will be asked, "What was most precious to you on earth?" That person will amazingly answer, "My blindness or dull-wittedness - because even though I had these handicaps, I didn't question Your ways." I did not complain, I did what I could with what I had. I understood that sometimes one need not understand. Some people are born rich, while others are not; some people are more attractive, intelligent, and talented than others. But life is fair, and I recognize that my G-d given attributes are what I needed to serve You, Hashem; and to have someone else's attributes would only cause me harm and truly handicap me.
This is why our individual shira is so precious and unique; because each one of us has our own unique handicaps, our own little mix of problems. And if despite all that, we don't give up and we do serve Hashem to the best of our abilities, then these very same handicaps will became our most prized possessions, our crown of glory, our song to Hashem.
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman writes from Atlanta.
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