This Shabat is Shabbat Shirah because during our Torah Reading tomorrow morning, we will read the Song of the Sea - the expression of gratitude by the Israelites to God after witnessing the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. I am always struck that the Israelites chose to express their feeling through song. The words of this piece are very powerful and something I think about every day when we recite them during the service. I am often struck by the verse, Ozi V'Zimrat Yah, Va'Yihee Li Lishua - God is my strength and my might, God is my deliverance. I have shared with the congregation before that this is the only verse in the Bible that appears in all three sources - here in Exodus in the Torah, in the Prophet Isaiah in the Writings and again in the Psalm in the Writings. It has been studied for centuries and often put to music. You may recall a few years ago when Hazzan Dulkin and I sang this verse with you during our High Holiday services - I can still feel the power in the Sanctuary that evening.
Shabbat Shira is a time for us to think about the role of music in our lives - in our Jewish lives and in our secular lives. There is a reason so many of our prayers have their own melody. There is a reason why our sacred texts are chanted on Shabbat and Holidays and not just recited without music. Many of our melodies have been part of our tradition for centuries and some great musicians are still putting our liturgy to music today.
As we prepare for Shabbat Shira, I want everyone to think about the role of music in your Jewish life. How does music help us connect to each other and to our traditions? What do we love about our familiar melodies and what can we do to be more open to learning new ones? How can we help other people around us to feel more of a connection to the service with song? Not only did Miriam and Moses lead everyone in the singing at the Red Sea, but everyone sang along - it was a communal experience, as powerful as walking on the dry land in between the columns of water on either side.
In our beautiful Friday night Siddur there are many powerful readings on the left hand column. There is one particular essay included on page 17 titled Sing. I share it with you here today in honor of Shabbat Shira:
When we sing the words of a prayer, we are actually expressing ourselves in two languages simultaneously - one of words with limits and definitions and one decidedly limitless with an immense power of its own. Alone, music can affect us emotionally, changing happiness to introspection or sorrow to joy; it also affects us physically, actually raising or lowering our breath and heart rate. So it is only natural that music would be a necessary tool to communicate with God, who addresses and moves us in ways both articulable and indefinable, and who is limited in the imagination of our minds but limitless as the object of the longing for others. Michael Boino
I look forward to seeing everyone as we celebrate JCW Shabbat Friday evening and Men's Club Shabbat on Saturday morning. I hope everyone has a wonderful Shabbat fulll of joy and music - Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Adam Feldman