A beautiful spring has sprung all over Riverdale. The “sticks” near the river are growing soft, velvety green covering, while flowering trees bloom with intense colors. It’s all so beautiful that I can’t remember: was there a winter here? ever?
Az yashir Moshe… so begins the Song of the Sea, read just earlier this week, on the 7th day of Passover. Az yashir…
Shortly after the Torah reading that day, Rav Avi Weiss got up to be the chazzan for musaf prayer. Aside from being the founder of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, nick-named the Bayit, Yeshivat Chovevei and Maharat, he is the kind of person who has a presence. He’s tall. And has a good voice. Top that with the fact that it was the last day of Pesach and most everybody who was away, got back. Shul was pretty full when Rav Avi got up to be chazzan. He started the usual tune, and then, when he got to Kdusha, the central part, switched.
All of a sudden, Kdusha was sung to the Partisan Hymn: the words were of the holiday prayer, but the sub-text thumped in the ears with, “Do not say this is my final way”. Then, just when we figured out what’s going on, he switched again. This time to “Jerusalem of Gold”. Again, the usual prayer continued undisturbed, but underneath it, we were traveling up among pine trees and fresh air, through the Judean hills to the holy city with the hopes of long ago… There is often a reason to come to shul with a tissue. There definitely was at least one on that morning. Az yashir…
Most English versions conveniently translate “az yashir” to mean – “then Moshe sang”, but if so, that should have been “az Moshe SHAR”. Strangely, the verb here is in the future tense: some day, in the time yet to come, Moses WILL sing. When is this day then? Rav Hirsch teaches that the word “az”, then, shares its root with chaza –to hold as a vision; while some point out that the word as – in gymatria (numerical value) is 8, as in the “8th day”.
“Eight Days a Week”, sang the Beatles… What is it about the number 8? What’s so special about the 8th day? When is it? Anything we’re supposed to do on it??
If you’re in the area, join me this Shabbat at Beth Jacob Oakland (yes, CA!) as we explore this a little further.