In Parashat Beshalah, B’nai Yisrael successfully crosses the Red Sea and escapes the Egyptians. This milestone marks the start of their journey to the Land of Israel. Right after they cross Yam Suf, they immediately stop and pause to praise God with Az Yashir, or Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea.
We sing Az Yashir every day during our morning Tefillah. I have always wondered why the rabbis inserted this passage from the Torah into our daily liturgy. What does Az Yashir mean to us in today’s world? The Talmud teaches that before we make our requests of God through prayer, we must praise God for what has been done on our behalf. The Shaharit service recited everyday is therefore preceded by Pesukei Dezimra, a collection of prayers that praise God. Az Yashir is included in Pesukei Dezimra because it is a song that recounts God’s miraculous work on behalf of B’nai Yisrael during their escape from the Egyptians.
Today, we live in a world in which we ask and want a lot, but often we don’t take the time to reflect on what we already have. It is crucial to remember to appreciate that which we have been given before requesting something new. B’nai Yisrael sang Az Yashir as a recognition of God’s work, and its praise wasn’t even followed by a request. Our routines often blind us from wonderful privileges and opportunities already accessible to us.
One of those privileges for our generation is the State of Israel. Many people take the State of Israel for granted and don’t appreciate the gift from God that it represents. This coming week I will be heading to Israel with my high school classmates, and my upcoming trip brings back wonderful memories of my Eighth Grade Israel Encounter with my SSDS friends. Schechter Bergen infused us with a deep love of the State of Israel. That is why each and every trip to Eretz Yisrael is so exciting for me. The country’s rich past, innovative present, and limitless future assures us that each visit is marked by new enriching experiences.
But, I sometimes wonder if we take Israel for granted. We often neglect to remember the thousands of years our ancestors lived without access to our homeland. And sometimes we gloss over the courage and sacrifice the most recent generations exhibited to bring us the miracle of Eretz Yisrael. Many of us today have “requests” for what we would like to see in Israel and Israeli society. Perhaps, we recite Az Yashir everyday in tefillah to remind us to be appreciative of the miracle of Medinat Yisrael God has already gifted us before asking for more.