Sharona Margolin Halickman
Sharona Margolin Halickman

The other ‘Az Yashir’

After B’nai Yisrael were saved by the splitting of the sea, Moshe and B’nai Yisrael sang “Az Yashir” to praise God for miraculously delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians. “Az Yashir” is recited daily as part of the Shacharit service. According to the Zohar, one who recites “Az Yashir” with proper intent will merit to praise God for future miracles as well.

There is another “Az Yashir” which praises God for the well that provided B’nai Yisrael with water during their 40 years in the Wilderness but since it is not part of our daily prayer service it is therefore less familiar. It can be found in Parshat Chukat, Bamidbar 21:17-20:

Az Yashir, Then Israel sang this song: “Come up, O well, sing to it!

The well dug by princes, that the nobles of the nation excavated, through the lawgiver with their staffs; from the Wilderness a gift-

The gift traveled to the valley and from the valley to the heights.

And from the heights to the valley that is in the field of Moav, at the top of the peak that overlooks the wastelands.

You may have noticed that neither Moshe nor God are mentioned in this Song of the Well.

Midrash Tanchuma explains that Moshe is not mentioned since he was punished on account of the water.

According to Michtav Me’Eliahu, the Song of the Sea was led by Moshe who helped B’nai Yisarel understand the extent of the miracle. In the Song of the Well, since B’nai Yisrael sang without Moshe, they did not reach the same spiritual levels.

Why did they sing about the well but not about the Manna?

According to Or HaChaim, the well and water refer to the Torah. We see this in the Talmud, Taanit 7a:

Rav Yehuda said: The day of rain is as momentous as the day which the Torah was given; As it said (Dvarim 32:2): “My teaching (lekach) shall drip down like rain,” and here the word “lekach” refers to the Torah as it says (Mishlei 4:2): “For I (God) have given you a good teaching (lekach tov); do not abandon my Torah.”

Or HaChaim continues:

Torah has frequently been compared to a well of water. It is called “well” because it originates with God, the ultimate well from which all springs forth. It is also called “water” as it symbolizes water and its life-giving properties. When the people sang “arise o well,” this was not a reference to the physical well and the waters beneath the earth’s surface, but to a celestial well.

Chidushei HaRim explains:

In Mishlei 3:18 we read:

It is a tree of life for those who grasp it and its supporters are happy.

The more one grasps onto it, the more life it gives. This can be compared to a rope that is thrown into the water to save someone who is drowning. The stronger he grasps onto the rope, the more likely he will be to save his life.

The more we grasp on to the Torah, the more we will benefit from it.

It is not a coincidence that we recite these verses from Mishlei as we put the Torah away:

Ki lekach tov natati lachem, Torati al ta’azovu (For I have given you a good teaching; do not abandon my Torah).

Etz Chaim hi lamachazikim bah, vetomcheha meushar (It is a tree of life for those who grasp it and its supporters are happy).

Dracheha darchei noam, vechol netivoteha shalom (Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace).

May we appreciate the Torah which, like water, we cannot live without.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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