Friday, February 02, 2007

even the infants in the womb sang shirah

Just back from vacation and am trying to pull myself together at work, but how can I not post anything about Parshas Beshalach and Shabbos Shirah?

Rabbi Meir taught (Kesubos 7b) based on the pasuk “B’Makheilos barchu Elokim, Hashem m’mkor Yisrael” that even infants in their mother’s womb sang shirah when the sea split. Of course infants in the womb cannot literally sing out songs of praise to G-d, nor do infants have the intelligence or ability to recognize miracles. So what could R’ Meir mean? True, even those not yet born were impacted by the miracles of leaving Egypt as part of the collective destiny of the Jewish people, but this is true of many other historical events and begs the question of why R’ Meir's lesson was focussed specifically on the splitting of the sea and the shiras hayam.

My wife Ariella has taught writing for many years, but none of the many handbooks we have around the house really teach how to capture the crucial ingredient of the poet’s insight, the calling of the muses that great writers seem to be born with. How is it possible that the contentious, rebellious camp that stood on the banks of the sea – “...vayamru al Yam Suf” (Tehillim 106:7) - who had no training in poetry or prophecy, who had been raised in Egyptian culture and absorbed a slave-mentality, who were ready to head back to Egypt and abandon Moshe at the first sight of the pursuing Egyptian army, came to recite the sublime and prophetic song of shirah? R’ Kook explained that just as training alone cannot make a poet, a Jewish soul is not made by one’s environment, one’s education, or one’s upbringing. Even an infant in the womb who has not experienced the nurturing influence of Jewish culture or society is not a tabula rasa, a blank slate upon which nothing is written, but is already imprinted with the unique poetic and prophetic Jewish soul. The experience of Yam Suf proved that within the heart of the infant Jewish nation, with all its shortcomings, lay the innate capacity of the Jewish soul to sing shirah.


  1. yehuda R11:54 AM

    Welcome back-You were missed.The kuzari makes a simalar point.He also uses it to say that if one was imbibed with innate faith teaching too much philosophy would be damaging in the same manner too much pendantics would ruin a natural poet.

  2. Welcome back! I missed your posts all week.

  3. HarmonicJew2:53 PM

    Good DT.
    I was gettign a little depressed not having divrei chaim this past week...but b"H, you're back just in time for shabbos!

  4. Anonymous2:37 PM

    Hi ;)
    oh... what unhinged comments!
    what do you think about it?

  5. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Your article is very informative and helped me further.

    Thanks, David