Angelic Song

Rabbi Wagensberg
Shvii Shel Pesach
Angelic Song

The seventh day of Passover, Shvii Shel Pesach, commemorates the Splitting of the Sea. The Torah records the song that the Jews sang to God in gratitude of this miracle that He had performed for them (Parshas Beshalach, 15:1-22).

The Lekach Vihalibuv (Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Schorr Shlit”a; a Rav in Flatbush of Congregation Nezer Eliyahu; son of Harav Gedalia Halevi Schorr ZT”L. Rav Gedalia Schorr was considered to be the “first American Gadol.” This was a phrase that Rav Aharon Kotler coined about him. Rav Gedalia Schorr was born in 1910 and passed away in 1979) teaches that when the Jews began to sing that song, they were elevated to the level of "Shirah" which is actually the service of the angels. Therefore, the Jews obtained angelic equality.

We find a support to this concept, that the Jewish people attained an angelic equivalence, in the work of the Tosaphists. The Tosaphists (Sanhedrin, chap. 4, "Echad Dinei Mammanos" pg. 37b, beginning with the word "Knaf") cite the Teshuvas HaGeonim that tells us about the practice of the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael back in the day.

He says that the Jews of Eretz Yisrael would only say "Kedusha" (the congregation's response to the repetition of the Amidah after the second benediction) on the Sabbath. However, during the weekdays they would not say "Kedusha."

The reason for this custom is based on a verse that says that every angel has six wings (Yeshaya, 6:2). Each day of the week, the angels use one of their wings with which they sing praises to God. When Shabbos comes, the angels say to God, "Master of the Universe, we do not have another wing with which to sing to You on this day."

Hashem says to the angels that He has another wing through which songs will be sung. That "wing" is the Jewish people themselves, as it says, "From the ‘knaf’ (corner) of the Earth we have heard songs" (Yeshaya, 24:16). The Hebrew word "knaf" has a double meaning. Not only does "knaf" translate as "corner," but also translates as "wing."

This verse establishes that song will be sung to God by the Jews who live on Earth. Since the verse refers to the Jews as a "knaf", we see that the Jewish people are considered to be a "wing" through which praises are sung to God. On the seventh day of the week (Shabbos) we serve as the seventh wing through which we sing to Hashem.

Now we can understand why the Jews of Eretz Yisrael once had a custom to say "Kedusha" (an angelic song to God) only on the Sabbath. This is because the six days of the week were already taken care of by the angels. Only on the Sabbath was there a concern that no song would be sung. In order to fill this gap, the Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael adopted the practice to say the Kedusha only on Shabbos since that was the day that it was needed.

All of this information substantiates the notion that was stated earlier; namely, that the Jewish people reached the spiritual level of angels. We see this from the fact that they could substitute the absence of the angelic song.

The Jews first reached this lofty height when they sang to God after the waters parted. After all, the angels wanted to sing to God after the Splitting of the Sea, but they were denied (See Megillah, chap. 1, Megillah Nikreis", pg. 10b, the opinion of Rebbi Yochanan). Instead, the Jewish nation sang the song. When they did, they demonstrated the ability to achieve an angelic status.

The Lekach Vihalibuv suggests that, based on this approach, we could explain why it is customary to sing "Tzaischem LiShalom" ("May you leave towards peace") to the angels on Friday night. Why are we suddenly bidding the angels farewell if they just arrived into our homes (see Shabbos, chap. 16, “Kol Kisvei”, pg. 119b)?

The answer is that the angels escort us all week long. During the weekdays their presence is necessary in order to sing to God. However, on the Sabbath when they cannot sing any longer, we take their place. Since there is no need for them on the Sabbath, we send them off.

When I saw this explanation, it bothered me a little bit. According to this answer, why do we invite the angels into our homes to begin with on Friday night by singing to them "Shalom Aleichem etc... Boachem LiShalom" ("Greetings of peace to you etc... Come towards peace")? I thought that there is no need for them on the Sabbath whatsoever.

Perhaps we could suggest that we are not talking to the angels when we say "Shalom Aleichem and Boachem LiShalom". Rather, we are addressing the other people sitting around our table. On this day, our family and guests take on the rank of angels. It is to them that we say "Shalom Aleichem Malachei HaShres" ("Greetings to you ministering angels"). Once they have come, we can then dismiss the actual angels with the words "Tzeischem LiShalom", just like we would do by any “change of the guard” where the new guards arrive first and only then do the old guards leave.

Perhaps we could add that our angelic status is created by singing itself. Music is a very powerful tool. Melodies can take us from where we are and bring us to where we want to be. Although this is true all the time; nevertheless, it is stressed twice a year.

The first time that song is the major focus is on Shabbos Shira (Sabbath of Song) when we read the portion of Beshalach, because the Song by the Sea is contained within Parshas Beshalach.

The second time that song is stressed is on Pesach, specifically on Shabbos Chol Hamoed where we read "Shir HaShirim" ("Song of Songs") and on Shvii Shel Pesach where we read the Song by the Sea.

This affords us an opportunity to plug into the power of song, thereby reaping its energy. When we hum holy melodies during prayer, or throughout our festive meals, or even while we travel, we can connect with God on a very deep level, moving us to a more meaningful, satisfying, and spiritual life.

So, may we all be blessed this Shabbos and Yom Tov to sing our hearts out in praise of God, and commit ourselves to be surrounded by holy tunes, thereby transporting ourselves to the angelic spheres, and thus deserve to merit a "Splitting of the Sea" in our own day and age where we will witness healing to the world and the downfall of our enemies, and experience our return to the rebuilt Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days.