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Az Yashir 5 Az Yashir

Then Moshe chose to sing…  *****  The word “az (then)” is the subject of the following midrash (Sh’mos...

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Then Moshe chose to sing…

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 The word “az (then)” is the subject of the following midrash (Sh’mos Rabbah, Perek 23):

 “Az yashir Moshe” – With [the word] “az” I sinned, when I stated (Sh’mos 5:23) “From the time I came to Par’oh to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this people” – with [the word] “az” I am saying shirah.

Moshe Rabbeinu, with the word “az,” relates to us that he now understands that what he originally saw as “bad” was truly good – so good, that he and all of B’nei Yisrael were now singing shirah, in part, due to that “bad.”

Initially, all Moshe saw was that Par’oh’s decree became even harsher after his initial encounter with Par’oh. That seemed to him as a worsening of the plight of the people he was supposed to be saving. However, at the end, Moshe realized that while the physical work became harder and more painful, this was actually for the benefit, and not for the detriment, of B’nei Yisrael.

How was it for their benefit? One way was that the degree of intensity of the labor took off years of slavery, and they were redeemed from Mitzrayim much sooner than they would have been without the harsher decree.

The Beis HaLevi offers an additional insight. He says that they sang shirah not simply because they were physically saved, but rather their primary joy was that they merited being a vehicle through which the world became more aware of Hashem’s awesomeness and power, and that He controls every aspect of the world. Increasing awareness of Hashem in the world is one of our great purposes in the world, and according to many, our primary purpose. Moshe and B’nei Yisrael now finally realized that all that Hashem had done was part of His master plan and design to increase that awareness to the world and to us ourselves, and it all happened through us, His beloved children. That is what brought them such immense joy that they had to sing the shirah.

The insight of “az” has great relevance to our own lives today. We all have painful and difficult times in our lives. During those times, we turn to Hashem and beg Him to take away the tzarah and pain and save us. When we are saved and look back, we thank Hashem for saving us. The greater the pain, generally the greater the appreciation and feeling of relief and joy.

On the other hand, though, many of us perhaps think to ourselves, “It would have been better if I didn’t have to go through the pain to begin with.”

Moshe and B’nei Yisrael, with the word “az,” taught us about a higher level. When we look back, we have the ability to recognize that our increased intensity in tefilah, our additional t’hilim, our increase in awareness of Hashem, our increase in emunah and bitachon through having to bear the pain, but pushing ourselves to continue to believe that all that Hashem does is ultimately for our benefit, are all tremendous gains that we would not have had without the painful event. These gains and more (perhaps atonement for sins and other possible very significant benefits) are priceless. By staying the course throughout our ordeal, we, too, increase k’vod Shamayim in the world, even if nobody knows how we are privately battling to remain steadfast in our emunah and bitachon, while bearing our pain, resulting in actually coming closer to Hashem through that pain.

David HaMelech teaches us an even higher level. The Gemara (B’rachos 60b) quotes the pasuk in T’hilim (perek 101, pasuk 1): “Chesed u’mishpat ashirah (Of kindness and justice do I sing).” The level of David HaMelech was that even while in the midst of mishpat (judgment), meaning a painful and difficult time, he was able to sing to Hashem. All that we have written about comes after we are saved. If we can look back and see the benefit that Hashem bestowed upon us through the pain, that is already a tremendous level. David HaMelech went one step further and was able to sing about the benefit while in the midst of the pain.

May we be zocheh to constantly grow closer to Hashem and be vehicles to increase revelation of His Presence in the world.

As part of our series on the mitzvos that make up our Yesodei HaTorah, the “foundational mitzvos,” daily recordings of approximately three minutes each day are available. Sign up by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and put the word “Subscribe” in the Subject line.

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We know that when Chazal present p’sukim from the Torah, N’viim, and K’suvim, it generally follows this order; p’sukim from the Torah are mentioned first. That being the case, why did Chazal place Az Yashir at the end of P’sukei D’Zimrah, which are primarily p’sukim from T’hilim – part of the K’suvim category? Az Yashir should have logically been placed first. This question is asked by the Zohar (Parshas T’rumah 131:2) and quoted by the Aruch HaShulchan (siman 52:1).

…ba’shmayim mi’maal v’al ha’aretz mi’tachas, ein od

…in heaven above and on the earth below, there is none other.

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The word olam stems from the word ne’elam (hidden). Hashem hides from us, and our job is to find Him – everywhere. Everything that happens in the world only happens through the will of Hashem, though to us that fact is hidden, and it appears as if we and others are the cause of events. When it comes to current events, we are too often caught up in the minutiae of “analysts,” “experts,” and news reporters. We want to know the minute details of how something happened, why it happened, who was the hero, etc. We get so enwrapped that we actually start to believe that it was the brilliance of an individual or might of a country that was the cause of some great success (or failure). Needless to say, their efforts warrant our thanks, praise, and admiration. Certainly we are obligated to thank people for their efforts. They may have made the choice to sacrifice their money, time, and even lives for others. However, we must remember at all times that the results are controlled and directed by Hashem exclusively. Getting too absorbed in the nitty-gritty may reflect a lack of this all-important understanding. When we avoid getting too caught up in how the messengers succeeded and instead focus on thanking and praising Hashem, we will be increasing k’vod Shamayim in the world.

The same is true in our personal daily lives. Whether we learn or teach Torah, work, raise families, or are engaged in any of our other many daily activities, we must remember that all results are up to Hashem. Our role is desire and effort, which certainly includes tefilah. Brilliance, wealth, power, etc. are gifts from Hashem. They are not the cause of any success, and are not to be admired, praised, or marveled at (see Yirmiyahu 9:22-23). Getting too absorbed in someone being an ilui in learning, or a g’vir in wealth, demonstrates a lack of understanding of “ein od.”

HaRav Chaim Volozhin, in his sefer Nefesh HaChaim 3:12, states:

[Free and abridged translation:] And really it is of major importance and is a wondrous s’gulah, to remove and nullify from his psyche all foreign influences, so that they not rule over him and have any influence upon him. When a person establishes in his heart that, “After all, Hashem is the true G-d, and there is none other [ein od] anywhere,” and he attributes no power or will in the world that has ultimate influence on his life other than Hashem, the singular Master of the world, so will Hashem help him to be free of those negative influences so that they will not be able to control his life.

The words “Ein od [milvado]” are especially important to remember when we know that we will have a significant challenge later that day. This can be a dentist appointment to remove a difficult wisdom tooth, a doctor appointment we are nervous about, an important job interview, a crucial meeting with our boss or our best and most difficult client, etc. Repeating “Ein od milvado” before and during (when possible) these events will help remind us that the outcome is exclusively determined by Hashem. It also brings reward for bitachon, which Rabbeinu Yonah (Mishlei 3:6) says is “great beyond the heavens.”

What a powerful lesson to remember as we leave our tefilos and go back out into the world. Wherever we are headed, let us carry these last words with us: ein od.

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Those involved with The Weekly Tefilah Focus wish a G’mar Chasimah Tovah to all of you and your loved ones.

As part of our series on the mitzvos that make up our Yesodei HaTorah, the “foundational mitzvos,” daily recordings of approximately three minutes each day are available. Sign up by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and put the word “Subscribe” in the Subject line.


To access Audio, Video, and Archives of previous Tefilah segments, please visit www.WeeklyTefilahFocus.com