The last of the 613
is to "write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel." What song is Hashem referring to? Rashi says that this
which immediately follows this
. Biblical song is elevating and joyous. Yet, if we look at the text of
, we notice that most of it is very depressing. It tells of our straying from the path Hashem has laid out for us in His Torah and the terrible tragedies that therefore will ensue. How is this uplifting and joyous?
All the commentators agree that
is definitely song. The
cites Tehillim where King David writes, "Of kindness and justice do I sing."
have the capacity to see God's love both in His kindnesses and in His justice, when He chastises us to bring us closer to Him.
agrees that most of the
is chastisement, he chooses to focus on the last few verses of
There Hashem reassures us that He will avenge the blood of His servants and appease His land and His people. This is Hashem's promise to us, that even if we are not worthy, He will never forget us. He will redeem us. This promise is a source of great encouragement throughout our history, and a powerful reason to sing.
Most of the Torah commentators, however, believe the "song" referred to here is the entire Torah. They derive from this verse the
that every Jew must write his own
that can be fulfilled by writing even one letter, as a single missing letter can invalidate the entire scroll and filling it in can make the entire scroll kosher again.
How can the entire Torah be referred to as a song, especially since it is not written in poetic format? We can answer this question by examining the differences between song/poetry and prose.
notes that prose is generally writing that is meant to be fully understood upon its initial reading. Poetry, on the other hand, is defined by its "economy of language" and the particular elements that add shades of meaning to the lines. Each word and letter of the Torah offers greater insights into meaning, allusions, inferences, and secrets using the four basic elements (
) to uncover as many as 70 different interpretations of the text.
Rav Reiss uses the poetic image from Shir Hashirim to further explain this: "The King brought me into His chambers." When viewed from the outside, the castle is magnificent. However, as one enters and goes from room to room, his awe grows as he encounters greater richness and beauty. So, too, with Torah study. During a cursory reading, one can already recognize the Torah's splendor. However, as one delves ever more deeply into the text, one marvels at all the myriad nuances and textures that continue to be revealed.
, however, is song as well as poetry. Music can only be appreciated when the notes blend together to form a harmonious whole. Similarly, the Torah too must be appreciated as a whole more than any particular part. This is what King David meant, posits Rav Reiss, when he wrote, "The Torah of Hashem is perfect (complete); it restores the soul." Only when the Torah is studied and observed in its entirety does it have the ability to restore one's soul.
Rabbi I. Schwartz notes that all the
have one ultimate goal, to bring us closer to Hashem. This is the same reasoning that Rabbi Jacobson uses. If we were to make a list of everything we do each day it would appear to be very pedestrian. However, if we can find one uniting factor, it would add meaning to it all. We can make a conscious effort to see meaning even in eating and drinking as a means to energize us toward a meaningful life of Torah and
While Torah study and observance can be difficult at times, we can always find the strength to sing. Song is a spontaneous expression of our innermost souls. This is what Torah should be. It must become part of our very essence, as Rav Dessler teaches us. When Bnei Yisroel delve deeply into Torah study and give it voice, they sing the praises of Hashem and bear witness to His sovereignty over earth.