Singing is a great part of our worship services every week – but this week is called the Sabbath of Song –Shabbat Shira when we chant the words of the Song of the Sea from the book of Exodus. We use special melodies to chant this passage, which recalls the parting of the Red Sea – where the Israelites crossed to freedom and the Egyptians who enslaved us and had a watery demise.
The Song of the Sea begins with the words, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song…” and the peak is when our people make it across the sea, and Miriam and the women sing
Mi Chamocha Ba-Eilim Adonai– who is like you almighty God? They don’t say it, they sing it.
Singing takes the message and makes it bigger, bolder, louder, sadder… song amplifies the message words seek to convey. It adds an element of emotion that is different from when we simply speak.
As we commemorate the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we can’t help but notice the obvious parallel theme: freedom. At Shabbat services this evening, we will celebrate the life and teachings of this great leader and at the same time find the similarities in all people’s journey to freedom. The hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” better known as the Black national anthem of the United States is inspired by our words of Exodus that we will chant this evening.
Lift every voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Written for the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln in 1900, these words voice a cry for liberation and affirmation for African-Americans. The lyrics are filled with imagery from our song of the sea. The message is timeless. The quest for freedom is unending, and we must be sensitive and aware that freedom is an unalienable right for all humankind. As Jews, we believe that God made all people B’Tzelem Elohim– in the image of God. We are all holy creations deserving of freedom.
Many people across the globe still quest for freedom. It is painful to know that around the globe, and even here in America, people still suffer oppression, much as did our ancestors in Egypt long ago.We know from our own history of struggle to overcome persecution and the sacrifices our people made for the freedom we are privileged to enjoy, it is our obligation to join others in their quest for freedom.
It is something we must sing about.
Singing is not just humming a tune. Singing is when your voice calls out from your heart and your soul, an expression of your mostly deeply held beliefs and convictions.
We must lift our voices and sing for what is right in our quest for Tikkun Olam– the repairing of the world.
As we enter into Shabbat, what is the song you are singing? What songs for liberation do you feel compelled to join in? If we all sing together, the power of our voices will inspire us all to come together so that “we shall overcome… someday.”
Cantor Lori Brock