It was in my regular Thursday morning semantics lecture that Hashem provided me the inspiration to re-ignite my tefilla.
We were learning about tenses in different languages and how mixing up the tenses within a sentence gives slightly nuanced meaning, like:
Tamara will say that she is excited
Tamara will say that she was excited
The challenge is to define the time in which Tamara is excited. Has it happened yet? Will it happen?
Anyway, all the confusion about tenses cast my mind back to a strange tense structure which I say every day.
‘Az yashir Moshe uvnei Yisrael’
Then Moshe and the Israelites sang.
Wait a second. It doesn’t actually say ‘sang!’ The prefix is actually in the future tense ‘Then Moshe and the Israelites will sing.’
So why does it say ‘az?’ ‘Then’ is a past tense word.
The mixture of tenses actually reveals something incredible. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 91b) uses this verse as proof of Techiyas Hameisim. Future resurrection.
Az yashir. One day there will be a song. The ultimate song of redemption. Moshe and the Israelites will be resurrected and sing once more.
If we calculate the gematria of the word ‘az,’ it adds up to 8 (aleph=1 zayin=7). The Maharal explains that the number 7 symbolises the natural world. 7 days in a week, 7 notes in a melody, 7 colours in a rainbow. 8 is beyond nature. 8 days until circumcision. 8 days of Chanuka. One day, there will be 8 notes in a melody. One note above the 7 notes of this world. A heavenly chord.
We are singing Az Yashir today to express our faith about the future. We are singing for tomorrow. It is a song interwoven with the fabric of past, present and future. Let’s break semantic rules and sing in all the tenses. Let’s celebrate the redemption, because it won’t be long before we will sing the Ultimate Song…
I think it is a beautiful concept! This idea of the combination of tenses, as as a reality of Techias Hameisim, expressed through hope, connected me to the brachah of “Es Tzemach Dovid” The prayer for Moshiach, descendant of Dovid Hamelech, in Shmone Esrai. It too seems to include all these different tenses and a bracha filled with the ultimate hope for us , to see a world of good, a world of Moshiach.
It starts off with a future tense,
אֶת־צֶֽמַח דָּוִד עַבְדְּ֒ךָ מְהֵרָה תַצְמִֽיחַ וְקַרְנוֹ תָּרוּם בִּישׁוּעָתֶֽךָ -The sprout of David, Your servant, speedily shall cause to flourish and shall exalt his power with Your deliverance.
Then it continues into both Past and Present
כִּי לִישׁוּעָתְ֒ךָ קִוִּינוּ כָּל הַיּוֹם -For Your deliverance we have hoped for all day.
וּמְצַפִּים לִישׁוּעָה and watch for Your deliverance. The word And-as a connector to More and More .
Maybe there is a form of death if one exists with time restraints, and perhaps the constant shifts of morning to evenings indicates that we too can change and move into different worlds using time to change ourselves, rather than being stuck. This also seems to be consistent with the halachos of Tefillah and the different times, and our existence changing each time we pray the Morning, Afternoon and Evening prayers. It seems to me that the prayers are designed to allow us to constantly lift us out of a death like existence and help us connect to true life.
Perhaps when I feel I am constrained by time, or limitations in my world, I can now turn to this Tefillah and the “Az Yashir” to pray to live above time, to live in a state of hope, and in a state of song.. to live with the miracles of the splitting of the sea as a reality, to the ultimate redemption, of a world of Moshiach.