“We know that the only way to banish darkness is with more light.
The only way to counter hate is with more love.”
These are the words that our Musician-in-Residence, Rabbi Joshua Warshawsky, spoke to his newborn child at his bris this past month. Such heavy thoughts to share with a newborn.
Had his son been born before October 7th, he might have delivered a lighter message, but the reality of the world we live in today caused him express a more sobering truth.
Each year on Parashat Beshallach, our Torah portion includes the dramatic moments when our people walked through the parted waters of the Red Sea to realize their final liberation from Egyptian servitude. The people celebrated by singing and dancing, and with triumphant celebration – captured in the famous words of the “Song of the Sea.”
This Shabbat is traditionally called “Shabbat Shira,” the Sabbath of Song. Usually, my thoughts turn to music and the power of song. But this year it’s different. The heaviness of the world bears so heavily upon my heart.
The Torah recalls the terror our people felt as they were chased by Pharaoh and his army. Maybe because today, Israel has been forced into this unfair war, I feel more pain and understanding as I read the story this year. How terrifying it must have been for our people to be chased into the sea, with nowhere else to turn!
And then I read their words: “Ozi v’zimrat Yah, vay’hi li li’yeshua , God is my strength and my song, and God will be my salvation.” The Israelites sang these resolute words of strength and faith in the midst of their terror and fear. They asked for God to shine some light into their darkened world, to carry them from slavery to freedom.
And their hope gave me hope. Their faith gives me faith.
This is a dark time in our Jewish history. Everyday our hearts break hearing of the war in Israel and knowing innocent people are still held hostage in Gaza. Antisemitism is on the rise and you can feel it. Our world is so badly fractured.
And beyond that, many are facing illness and loss – the loss of marriages, the loss of businesses, the loss of loved ones. We find ourselves terrified and afraid. We struggle. We cry. We feel immense pain, in so many different ways.
And yet, somehow, we find the strength; we survive. We learn that we are stronger than we think.
The Torah this week reminds us that we are a people of faith. We do not walk on this journey alone. We walk with a sense of humility that says, we don’t know it all. We need each other and we need to tap into the divine strength which lives within us all. And we are reminded that even when the journey is difficult and painful, we will find a way to let the light in.
What the Israelites discovered was that they didn’t need to hear God’s voice from the outside. Instead, they learned that God’s voice sings out from inside us. It is a song of strength and salvation – if we can quiet ourselves to hear it, to feel it and to sing it, we can find strength to face whatever life throws our way. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said: “Faith is the ability to hear the music beneath the noise.”
Cantor Lori Brock