As Am Yisrael crossed the Yam Suf they sang the Shirah of אז ישיר . Inside this Shira we find the words זה אלי ואנוהו they pointed with their fingers towards Hashem and declared this is my G-d and I will glorify Him (Rashi in 2nd pshat). The gemarrah in Shabbos 133b brings two explanations to this word ואנוהו. The first interpretation is to beautify His mitzvos, to go the extra mile with Hiddur Mitzvah. The second interpretation conveys that there is a mitzvah to emulate Hashem’s ways והלכת בדרכיו , for example just as He is merciful so too we should be merciful etc. Rashi writes that this interpretation is derived from the word אנוהו which is constructed of two words אני והוא that one’s relationship with Hashem is by duplicating His middos.
According to these interpretations, what relevance does זה אלי ואנוהו have to do with the miracle of Kerias Yam Suf that it became a central part of the Shira? If ואנוהו means the directive to beautify mitzvos we can understand its insertion in the Shira. By beautifying our mitzvos we thereby give gratitude to Hashem for the gift of 50 miracles enumerated by Chazal that occurred during the splitting of the sea, all of which facilitated our crossing in the most exquisite and beautiful way. However, according to the interpretation that ואנוהוis a directive to emulate Hashem’s middos, where do we find an expression of such a middah during the crossing that we should strive to emulate it.
Secondly, the Shiras Hayam is written in the Torah in the form of bricklaying using wordsand spaces. Why doesn’t the form of אז ישיר appear in two columns like the Shira found in האזינו?
The Sefarim explain that at Kerias Yam Suf the Sefirah of עתיקא also known asכתר was revealed to them. Unlike all the other flows from above which are triggered by the actions and mitzvos of Am Yisrael from below, Kesser is activated from above irrelevant of the righteousness of Am Yisrael. A kesser which literally means crown, is placed on top of the head above the source of intellect. So too, the Sefirah of Kesser symbolizes the flow of an irrational rachamim from Hashem to Am Yisrael, one which is based solely on ratzon, desire. There is no reasonable explanation when it comes to ratzon, why one individual prefers this color or taste and another favors something else. So too, Kesser represents the choosing of Am Yisrael only because Hashem desires to do so and not because of righteousness or performance כי רוצה ה’ בעמו (Tehillim 149,4) At Kerias Yam Suf,Hashem was confronted with prosecution claims against Yisrael of their unworthiness for Hashem’s favoritism since they are no different than the Egyptians. According to the Midas Hadin, Yisrael were doomed. Hashem awakened the middah of Kesser/Atikah and no longer did salvation or redemption depend upon piety or even Tefilah (Rashi 14,15), but rather upon ratzon alone. Hashem displayed His ratzon for our existence and freedom by splitting the sea saving us and then drowning the Egyptians.
In the Sefer Mesilos Bilivavam, he continues this train of thought concerning the middah of Kesser that is incumbent for Yisrael to emulate. We can sing to Hashem because He has saved us from tzaros. However, we can attain a loftier madraigah in that we are motivated to sing to Hashem because it is our deep ratzon to sing, irrelevant to whether we received redemption already or we are singing because we are hoping for that salvation to come in the near future. This higher relationship with Hashem is called אהבה שאינה תלויה בדבר.
The Shiras Hayam was Am Yisrael’s response to their recognition of Hashem’s salvation of Yisrael via the MIddah of Kesser. As the Ramah Mepanu points out that the gematriah of אשירה לה’ כי גאה גאה equals כתר and the same is the gematriah of the Shira of Miriam שירו לה’ כי גאה גאה which is also כתר. I would like to add yet another allusion to the Shirah being a song of Kesser quality from the gematriah of עבדו אז ישיר (including the letters) equals כתר .
This is the meaning of the double term גאה גאה in the Shira which is interpreted that we are praising Hashem beyond the benefit that He bestowed upon us of being our savior. This is the motivation behind Yisrael’s song to Hashem. It emanates from the same middah in us Kesser which portrays a song independent from what You Hashem has done for me. It emanates from my essential ratzon to sing to you beyond any intellectual or emotional persuasions. It is not about me Hashem and what you gave me but rather it is totally about You.
We can arouse in shamayim a showering of the Middah Kesser unconditional love when we ourselves act with the Middah of Kesser. When we serve Hashem for no reason other than I want my G-d, then He will reciprocate in the same manner רוצה ה’ את עמו. When the goyim jeer at us and say Look your G-d has abandoned you for a Holocaust why do you still stick with Him, our answer is usually He really did not leave us or just wait and see what comes out of this. However, if one serves Hashem with the Middah of Kesser the answer is an affirmation of I desire my G-d under all circumstances. There is no rhyme or reason only ratzon which supersedes all causes, benefits, and explanations.
Everyone is truly a candidate to copy Hashem in this middah of Kesser. For we find that the Rambam paskins that if one refuses to give his wife a get when necessary we force him by beating him until he says רוצה אני I desire. Since he wants to be part of Yisrael and he wants to observe the mitzvos and distance himself from aveiros, we force his yetzer harahto release his hold on him and his true ratzan comes out. Even if the intellect and emotions don’t agree, the essential ratzon of the Yid still wants to have an intimate relationship with Hashem. Instead of being forced to bring out one’s inner ratzon, every Yid has the ability to bring it out on his own.
Now we can understand why the mitzvah of זה אלי ואנוהו to emulate Hashem’s middos is fixed in the middle of the Shira. The Shirah of אז ישיר was one that reflected the revelation to Yisrael of Hashem’s Kesser which is the highest middah and service of Hashem. It was this middah that saved Yisrael at the Yam Suf from the hands of the prosecuting angels. In the Shira we expressed this middah with the words כי גאה גאה as we mentioned above. This is the middah we have to strive for in Avodas Hashem. This is what the word אנוהו means אני והוא Me and Hashem. It is the commitment of Yisrael to emulate this middahof Kesser.
With this we can understand why the Shira of אז ישיר is written in the form of brick laying, words and spaces combined. For the sefarim call this middah of Kesser איו based on the passuk והחכמה מאין תמצא that the 2nd Sefirah of Chachmah emanates from Ayin – nothingness. The Shira expresses words and spaces together. Words symbolize חכמה and spaces symbolize אין nothingness which corresponds to Kesser.
We can now understand the comment of the Zohar Hakadosh which the Mishneh Berurah brings (51,17) that an individual who says the אז ישיר with joy is considered as if he crossed the Yam Suf that day and he will be forgiven for all his aveiros. How should we understand the cryptic words of the Zohar that just for imagining with joy one’s crossing of the Yam Suf and singing the Shira, with the snap of a finger all his aveiros disappeared? However, with the words of this mamar it becomes more clear. The Shira is our commitment of זה אלי ואנוהו to emulate Hashem with the middah of Kesser which He displayed in order to save us at Kerias Yam Suf. If one can muster up both the sincerity of kavvanah and commitment together with the imagination of crossing over the Yam Suf, then he has activated for himself a revelation of the middah Kesser from Hashem which never judges a person on his merits or demerits but rather showers him with incredible rachamim and an unconditional love through the middah of אין as if nothing wrong ever existed.
As a final note I would like to bring the words of the Mabit in his sefer Bais Elohim (Tefilla 15) that the reason our Chachamim instituted the recital of עלינו לשבת after davening Shemoneh Esrai was in order that we should not feel entitlement from Hashem to answer our requests for such a good tefillah. Therefore we say עלינו לשבח לאדון הכל it is upon us to praise Hashem Master of everything. For we owe Hashem for his chesed that He enlightened us to realize that we bow down כורעים ומשתחווים ומודים לפני מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא. Our praising of Hashem is not about us and are benefits that we are anticipating to receive, but rather about Hashem and our G-d given gift of the ability to praise the King of Kings Master for even the existence of existence.