The seventh day of Passover has special characteristics to it, similar to the first day of Passover. It is celebrated with festive meals and certain additional restrictions apply on that day, more so than the days in between. The reason for the special celebration on the seventh day is that this day represents the climax of our exodus from Egypt. On this day, the Red Sea was split, the Jews went through the gap on dry land and reached the shore. The Egyptians, who had chased after them, drowned, as the water returned to its normal state of being.
The Talmud tells us (Megilah 10b), that at the time this awesome miracle took place, the angels wanted to sing to God in praise of this great feat. However, God responded, that despite the fact that this punishment which the Egyptians suffered was well deserved, these were His creations who were suffering, and it was not a befitting time for song. The questions on this passage begs to be asked: Why is it then that the Jews themselves engaged in song upon exiting the Red Sea? In fact, the song which they sang is recorded in its entirety in the Torah as a commendable act, not a negative one at all.
In response to this question, Rabbi Aharon Kotler explains the fundamental difference between the song of the angels and the song of mankind (Mishnas R’ Aharon, volume 3 pp 3): There are two potential purposes in singing to God. Firstly, it is incumbent upon us to do so, just for the sake of praising God, when we are awed by His greatness displayed in front of us. In addition, song could be a means to improve our Emunah, our faith in God’s existence and absolute control over the entire world. Every time we take note of God’s intervention in our lives, we reinforce our awareness of Him in our world. Even more so, when we sing in praise to God, full of emotion, for the salvation which He has brought upon us, we impress in our hearts the knowledge of His presence in our lives to an ever higher degree.
This is the difference between the song of the angels and the song of mankind. Angels by nature, have full awareness of God’s power over the entire creation. For them, singing to God only accomplishes the first purpose, which is merely the proper response called for upon witnessing an awesome act of God’s greatness. It is to this that God responded, on such an occasion, song is not an appropriate function, since it involved the suffering of His creations. Even though they were deserving of punishment, God was disappointed about the fact that it had to come to that. To the angels, God said that for such an occasion, a special song for the sake of his praise alone was inappropriate.
However, when human beings sing God’s praises, the song serves an additional purpose. For people, singing to God in praise of His greatness which we observe in our world is an act of ingraining in ourselves the knowledge of His existence and His supervision over our personal lives. Song for this purpose is a necessary component to our growth like no other. Since song serves as a tool to advance our own awareness of God in a personal way, its worthiness is not compromised by the fact that the subject of the song involves the suffering of the evil ones.
There was once a fellow, who traveled from overseas to solicit funds to marry off one of his siblings. As his trip neared its end, he was still missing a large sum of money to cover the necessary expenses. The day before he was scheduled to return, a wealthy man heard of the story, and was very touched by what this person was doing to marry off his sibling. He got together with another rich man, and together, they went to meet the fellow at the airport with their contribution of the remaining funds that were needed. When the solicitor realized what they had given him, he immediately turned his eyes to heaven and pronounced a verse from Psalms, “Thank the Lord for He does good, His kindness is everlasting.” (And then he proceeded to emotionally thank the two men.)
The understanding of God’s existence and control is not merely a philosophy to be kept in the back of our minds or to serve as a topic for lofty discussion. The above insight teaches us a fundamental principle in how to turn awareness of God into a living reality in our lives. Whenever we experience any kind of salvation or achieve anything we were hoping for, we could utilize this as an opportunity to channel our happiness into praise of God. By putting our emotion into an expression of personal gratitude to God (especially if we do so verbally), we elevate ourselves, with a deeper recognition of God in our lives.
By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber