A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freedman:
The sadness we feel at Rabbi Feldman's z"l passing is still with us, as it will be for a long time. And yet this Shabbat the Torah reading schedule inexorably brings us to Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea. I quote from our prayer book, "Praises to the Supernal God, blessed be; Moses and Miriam and all the Israelites sang to you with great joy, all saying, 'Who is like You among deities...' "
The coincidence poses a deep and difficult question: How does one reconcile rejoicing while in a time of grief?
My answer inspiration is from grammar. The second word of the Song stands out as a puzzle. Az yashir Moshe, the song begins. Yashir is in the future ("imperfect" to you grammarians). So we should translate, "Then Moses will sing." Will sing? Clearly this has to be in the past! It should read Az shar Moshe, "Then Moses sang." If you ask them, scholars of Biblical grammar will opine that yashir is representative of an older Canaanite verb form that could imply completed (past) action. Rashi rejects that explanation as too academic and suggests that it really means, "Then Moses decided that he would sing (in the next few minutes)."
Sadness and gladness are not mutually exclusive. Seeing a beautiful flower or a gorgeous sunset, remembering a cherished sweet moment, recalling through song a time when we felt that the world was good and pure and right, all of these can lift a mourning heart without annulling the honor to the dead that mourning bestows. Each year the ritual of singing the Song of the Sea can remind us to follow Moses' example: expect and treasure moments when we can open our hearts to joy and song. We can rejoice without betraying grief.