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Most people know that we read Az Yashir on Shabbos Shira and we put out bread for the birds. However this is the only Shabbos that has a special name simply because of what we read in the Parsha. (Sefer Hatodaah)

Shabbos HaGodol, Shabbos Shuva, and others are not named after what we read in the Parsha.

An explanation would be appreciated.

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    How do you know it's named after the Parsha and not the Haftara, like the other Shabbatot you mention?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:12
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    What about mi.yodeya.com/questions/3089/shabbos-breishis ?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jan 10, 2011 at 22:13
  • Sefer Hatodaah says that the nameof the Parsha is due to the Shira in the Parsha. Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 3:01
  • Re your 2nd sentence - What about the 4 special parshiot like Sheqalim and zachor? Their words are mentioned in the maftir reading. Or, are you limiting it to anything that's not the maftir?
    – DanF
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 0:02
  • @DanF Shekalim and Zachor are an extra reading and can come out in different Parshios. Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 2:44

4 Answers 4

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Also note that the haftorah for this parsha involves the song of devorah (although I can't say if that came before or after)

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    Daniel, welcome to Judaism.SE and thank you for pointing that out. This parallels other Shabbatot which are named after their haftorah (Chazon, Nachamu, Shuvah). I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 0:37
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I wrote elsewhere:

ספר התודעה asks a similar question, and gives a beautiful answer:

Not only שירת הים is in this פרשה; many other ideas are.... Nonetheless, the Jewish people has designated that this שבת be named specifically after the שירה, for this שירה was for Jews throughout the generations as if they were then saying it. Why so? Because whereas ה׳ spoke the entire Torah, and the Jews listened, here the Jews spoke and ה׳ and all His hosts listened....

For with the strength of the שירה that they then sang, they planted שירה and joy in the heart of every Jew, for all time; every time they are saved from their enemies and granted reprieve from their troubles, their hearts sing... to ה׳ Who saved them.

On another note, ספר אהל משה, by Rabbi Moshe Rosen of New York, notes that this week should not, by rights, be called שבת שירה merely because we read the שירה. After all, we read the שירה on a daily basis, so what makes this day special? Further, it can't be called שבת שירה because we commemorate the miracle of the sea now — we do that on the seventh of פסח, the anniversary of the crossing.

He answers that the reason the Jews sang at that point — even though a trip through the deadly desert was still before them — was that they trusted that ה׳ would take care of them. "ויאמינו בה׳ ובמשה עבדו, אז ישיר...‏". So we refer only to this day as שבת שירה, as this is the only day on which we also read all the troubles that they went through in the desert. (Every day, when we read the שירה, we read it alone, without recalling the hardships of the desert.) When we read it this week, it strengthens our own בטחון. (We do not call the seventh of פסח by the name יום שירה because we do not need to strengthen our בטחון, as we are שרויִם [בשמחה]‏ and have בטחון.)

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However this is the only Shabbos that has a special name simply because of what we read in the Parsha.

This is also the only parasha that has an extremely visible, long, brick-formatted, column-widening song right in the middle of it. I think the specialness of the name matches the specialness of the Torah reading. My only source for this is my intuition.

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    And Parshat Ha'azinu doesn't have such a visible song in it?
    – Chanoch
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 0:24
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    There's too much else going on that time of year for the parshah to be noticeable. Beshalach is during the long stretch of nothingness (or next-to-nothingness) from Chanukah to Purim...
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 2:24
  • Alex you forget SHovavim Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 5:48
  • @Chanoch That is why I gave all those other qualifiers. But like I said, it was just conjecture.
    – WAF
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 21:18
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This question is mentioned by Rav Elimelech Biderman shlita in this week's Torah Wellsprings - Beshalach 5784 (pp.16-17).

He writes there:

After maariv on Shabbos Shirah, Rebbe Bunim of Pshischa zt'l repeated a question he heard from Reb Yitzchak Vorka zt'l. Reb Yitzchak Vorka asked, "Why is this Shabbos called Shabbos Shirah? We generally don’t name the Shabbos after what we read in the Torah. Last week's Shabbos (parashas Bo) isn't called 'Shabbos Yetzias Mitzrayim,' and next week's Shabbos (parashas Yisro) isn't called 'Shabbos Matan Torah.' Why, then, is this Shabbos called Shabbos Shirah?"

Rebbe Bunim answered that it is because the Shirah is written in the sefer Torah לבינה אריח גבי על. [Az Yashir is written in the sefer Torah in a song format, with large spaces after each phrase.]

Then Rebbe Bunim said with hislahavus, "Every Yid must be very happy on this Shabbos!"

The Ramasayim Tzofim zt'l (Tana d'bei Eliyahu Zuta 16) offers the following explanation:

It is based on the Shlah Hakadosh, who says that the ink of a sefer Torah represents the neshamos, the good deeds, the emunah, and the daas of the Jewish nation. The white of a sefer Torah represents the physical bodies of Bnei Yisrael. He explains that when we read about yetzias Mitzrayim in the Torah, the typical Yid doesn't experience the joy of yetzias Mitzrayim, and when we read about matan Torah, the average Yid doesn't experience the incredible joy of matan Torah. Tzaddikim do experience the joy; however, the average Yid doesn't. This is why we don't call last Shabbos "Shabbos Yetzias Mitzrayim" and next Shabbos "Shabbos Matan Torah."

However, when we read Az Yashir, every Yid can experience the joy of kriyas Yam Suf. There are many white spaces between the stanzas, which means that the bodies of Bnei Yisrael also experience it. The human mind and heart experience the joy of kriyas Yam Suf. It can therefore be called Shabbos Shirah. It is a joy that everyone can experience.

This is why Rebbe Bunim of Pshischa urged every Yid to be happy on this Shabbos. This is a joy that everyone can relate to.

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