Yom Haatsmaut - Song and Praise Exaltation and Hymn
By: Rav Gavriel Saraf
Song and Praise Exaltation and Hymn
At this time of the year, on the days we celebrate the state of Israel, we thank and praise HaShem for all the miracles which He did for us: He brought us to Eretz Israel from the corners of the earth, and we are blessed to have a flourishing, prosperous state with such a great, wonderful Torah world.
We will focus on the essence of the thanks and praise which we proclaim and sing out of reflection on the kindnesses of HaShem.
The Gemara recounts (Sanhedrin 94a):
Rabbi Tanhum said: Bar Kappara expounded in Zippori: HaShem desired to make Hizkiyahu the Moshiach and, and to make Sanheriv Gog and Magog. Middat HaDin (The Attribute of the Law) said before Him: Master of the World! David the king of Israel, who said many songs and praises before You – You didn't make him the Moshiach. Hizkiyahu, for whom You did all these miracles, and he didn't say Shira (song) before You – will You make him the Moshiach? Therefore it (the thought to make Hizkiyahu Moshiach) was closed. The earth spoke up immediately and said: Master of the World, I will sing Shira in the place of this tzaddik, and (You) make him the Moshiach! It opened and said Shira before Him, as it says: "From the end of the earth we heard refrains– the tzaddik will be elevated etc."
There are a number of questions to be asked regarding this narrative of Chazal: First, why was Hizkiyahu's failure to say Shira so momentous that the charge of the Attribute of the Law was accepted and the divine plan to make him Moshiach and to bring salvation to the world was forestalled? Additionally – and this is the central question – how is it possible that Hizkiyahu didn't see the need to say Shira to HaShem for all His kindnesses with him? We also need to understand why the earth opened and said Shira, and how this can be a replacement for the Shira of king Hizkiyahu.
The Sefat Emet (Parshat Beshalach, תרל"א) explains in the name of his Rav that it is known that King Hizkiyahu lived in a generation where all of Am Israel learned Torah, as the Gemara says (Sanhedrin 20a): "'A G-d fearing woman, she shall be praised' – this is the generation of Hizkiyahu," and furthermore it says (Sanhedrin 94b): "And it will be on this day that his burden will be lifted from your shoulder and his yoke from your neck and the yoke will be broken because of oil." Rabbi Itzchak Nafha said: Sanheriv's yoke was broken because of Hizkiyahu's oil which illuminated synagogues and study halls. What did Hizkiyahu do? He thrust a sword at the entrance of the Beit Misrash and said: Anyone who doesn't study Torah will be impaled with this sword! They checked from Dan to Be'er Sheva and didn't find an am ha'aretz (a man unlearned in Torah); from Gevat to Antipras and they didn't find a boy or girl, man or woman who wasn't well-versed in the halachot of impurity and purity."
This was a generation of "The land will be filled with knowledge of G-d like waters cover the seas" and in a generation like this, the miracle was expected, and G-d's hashgacha (supervision) over them was so clear to them to the point where they weren't astonished by the miracle. Therefore Hizkiyahu didn't pray for victory in the war, but said "I will sleep in my bed and You will act (Eicha Rabbah 4, 15)." All of Shira is inspired and motivated by enthrallment and overwhelming emotions, but in this instance, Hizkiyahu and his generation weren't mesmerized by the greatness of the miracle.
We see this as well in the words of the Gemara which follow: "It is unflattering to Moshe and six hundred thousand who didn't say "Baruch" until Yitro came. And this is difficult to understand, since they already sang Shirat HaYam before Yitro came. The explanation is that the deficiency in Shirat HaYam was the nearly exclusive emphasis on the vengeance upon the goyim: "I will sing to HaShem because He is very exalted, He cast the horse and its rider into the sea" "HaShem is a man of war" "Your right hand crushes the enemy." And only at the end does it mention the miracle of the salvation: "In Your kindness You led this nation which You redeemed." Israel praised G-d for the vengeance against the goyim since they were most awestruck by this, as it says: "The tzaddik will rejoice because he witnessed vengeance." (Tehillim 58:11) However, Yitro taught us that first of all we should praise G-d for the miracle of the redemption, and only afterwards for the vengeance upon the nations: "Blessed is G-d who saved you" and only afterwards he said: "Because that which they schemed came upon them."
When Hizkiyahu saw the great miracle, in his eyes it was a self-evident occurrence. The temimut (complete integrity) and confidence in HaShem were so great to the point where it was difficult to say Shira, because from Hizkiyahu's point of view, HaShem's way of running the world "incognito" - through nature - was equal to HaShem's way in performing a miracle. In the words of the Sefat Emet: "Because he knew that nature was created and is continuously sustained only by HaShem, blessed be He." For Hizkiyahu to be amazed by a miracle like this was like being amazed by the rising or setting of the sun.
Therefore we must strive to understand: evidently Hizkiyahu and his generation had reached such a high level, one of deep understanding that everything comes from the hand of HaShem and there is no such thing as "nature." If so, what is wrong with that?
We can explain this according to the book Emek Bracha by Rabbi Aryeh Pomeranchik, in the name of his Rav the Gri"z from Brisk, who wrote in the name of his father the Gra"ch: What would be the law regarding a man in a crisis, if a prophet were to tell him that G-d will rescue him from the crisis? Or if a man feels absolute and complete confidence that HaShem will rescue him – in this case can he say Shira? The Gra"ch said that the answer lies in the verse in Tehillim (13:6): "And I trusted in Your kindness, my heart will rejoice in Your salvation." King David attests that he was confident in HaShem's kindness and his heart rejoiced in the salvation before it happened; however he concludes: "I will sing to HaShem for He has granted (salvation) to me" – that is to say, the time to say Shira is only after the actual salvation, only after "for He has granted (salvation) to me" has come to pass.
And it appears that the reason that Shira is not said until the completion of the salvation is that there are two reasons for Shira on a miracle: A. Hakarat Ha-Tov (appreciation for the good which has been granted). B. Pirsum Ha-Nes (publicizing the miracle). For the purpose of appreciation alone, it was possible to say Shira even before the salvation, since one who has reached such a great level of Bitachon like the level of Hizkiyahu and King David - "and I trusted in Your kindness" – he is confident that G-d will save him and therefore he can thank Him even before the salvation. However, from the perspective of Pirsum Ha-Nes, Shira can only be said after the actual salvation, as the Shira proclaims the miracle, and shows all the world the great hand of G-d who in His great kindness sustained us - and in this way the Name of Heaven is sanctified.
Let us return to King Hizkiyahu. The defeat of Sanheriv was an event of international importance, and it was a fitting time for the coming of the Moshiach. The world was ripe for this, since had the miracle been publicized, the entire world would have been elevated to a high level of awareness of G-d's power and invincibility. Therefore G-d desired to make Hizkiyahu Moshiach, but because he didn't say Shira, the miracle wasn't publicized and the result was that the world wasn't ready enough for the coming of the Moshiach. True, even among the nations there is historical documentation that during this period the Assyrian army suffered a great defeat. But as no explanation is given which relates to Emunah (belief in G-d), the goyim can make rationalizations such as: a plague suddenly broke out, etc. However, had Shira been said and publicized by King Hizkiyahu and all of Am Israel, the world could have attained perfection.
As we said, King David was also at the level of "and I trusted in Your kindness," nevertheless, he did not refrain from saying Shira and proclaiming the miracles which were done for him.
The earth wanted to rectify this issue, where Hizkiyahu had failed, by saying Shira. The point of this, according to what has been explained, is that the earth says that when the miracle is so apparent, then the world itself testifies to this miracle, and therefore in any case the miracle will be widely known. This is in the same vein as what is said in Tehillim (19:2-5) "The heavens narrate the glory of G-d, and the work of His hands is told by the skies…there is no speech and no words, no voice can be heard. Across the world goes their horizon, and at the end of the earth are their words." The very existence of the celestial bodies and the forces of nature testify like a thousand witnesses to G-d's greatness and glory.
It is our obligation to internalize this when we stand up and praise HaShem, blessed be He, for all of His great kindnesses. Beyond the fundamental sentiment of Hakarat Ha-Tov which is expressed by this giving of thanks, it is extremely important to sing the Shira of the Hallel for the proclamation of the miracle, and specifically in opposition to those of deficient Emunah who give "excuses" and "explanations" for everything that happens and do not see G-d's magnificent hand and His Hashgacha over us. Our duty is to call to the world, forthrightly and openly, to know and to proclaim that everything is the result of the power of HaShem, and in this way to greaten the glory of G-d in the world and to bring closer the full realization of the Geulah with the coming of our righteous Moshiach, speedily and in our days, Amen.
Shiur ID: 9260