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.
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.
The Torah (and Haftorah) speaks about Shira (song), the specially composed tribute to God for the miracles He performs to save the lives of His people. If anything, Shira takes the focus off our own military prowess, and focuses our attention instead on God, and how, with His help and guidance, we were able to overcome great odds, and to stand up against the world.
How important is saying Shira? The gemora says that had King Chizkiah, during the time of the First Temple, sang praises of God for the miracle that occurred for him (in his war against the massive army of Sancheriv), he would have been the Moshiach (Sanhedrin 94a)! But he did not, and the rest is history, our history, and all that occurred since then.
It’s not that God yearns for a pat on the back from us. It’s more that He desires to elevate us to a higher spiritual plain in order for us to be able to have an even greater experience of Him, the most sublime pleasure possible and purpose of life. Shira exhibits how much we are able to tear away the “veils” of nature from over our mind’s eye, and see the soul of the matter, the hand of God orchestrating all the events of daily life towards an ultimate goal that supercedes any events of current historical importance. Such a recognition serves to “purify” the world, and lead to a period of history of miracles even greater than those such as the splitting of the sea, or the overcoming of tyrants.