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It's Shabbat Shirah for which I offer this classic musing from 5759, as I've never been able to say it better, although I've added a few new elements this time around.
Who is like you, Adnai, among the gods? Who is like you, awesome in splendor, working wonders?
For a brief moment, I considered making that my entire musing for today. After all, it sums up for me, quite distinctly, what I think about Gd.
Diversion 1: But, like Nachshon, I'll plunge ahead into the waters anyway-even as unsure as I am of what lies ahead, saying "Mi chamocha baelim Adnai..."
Gd is quite remarkable, of that there is no doubt. But Gd created a creature and endowed it with some truly remarkable features as well. And out of all the gifts Gd gave to this creature, known as humankind, one stands out as a unique way to thank and praise our creator. It may not be Gd's greatest gift to us, but it sure ranks up there. (We are the recipient of so many gifts from Gd I would be hard pressed to prioritize them: Shabbat, Torah, freedom from slavery, love, senses, etc. If I were to hazard a guess, I might place Shabbat above all-for it came before Torah. But that's a discussion for another time.)
Diversion 2: I step into the sea. It's cold. The wind is blowing. Moshe promises the sea will part. I believe. I'll plunge ahead. But it sure is cold and windy. This is hard to do alone. From where can I find the strength to go on?
The gift I am speaking of is the gift of music and song. And what a glorious and remarkable gift it is. Those of you who know me well know that music is at the very core of my Judaism. That's why this Shabbat, Shabbat Shirah is always one of my favorite Shabbats.
And since the gift of music is such a special one, what better way to thank and praise Gd but through music. With music we praise, thank, glorify, remember, teach, share, love.
Diversion 3: Well, the water is up to my waist, and it's still cold and wet and windy. This is hard. Maybe if I sing a tune as I go, keeping praise for Gd on my lips. "Mi chamocha baelim Adnai..."
In "Sparks Beneath the Surface" Larry Kushner and Kerry Olitzsky relate a teaching of Rabbi A. Chein. The Rabbi teaches that the reason we remember the miracle of what happened at the Reed Sea is because of the song they sung (Shirat Hayam.) Yet we do not recall Joshua leading Israel across the Jordan near Jericho - another miracle of waters split asunder and crossing on dry land.[Joshua 3:16-17] for it lacks the musical attestation.
What a beautiful teaching, that eloquently demonstrates the power of song and music. Much of what I first learned of the history of the Jewish people was through song and poetry, and I daresay this is true for many of us.
Diversion 4: That does help. Singing I mean. It makes me feel braver and better and warmer. But it's still cold and wet and windy, and Moshe is standing there with his staff in the air and I'm up to my armpits in cold, wet, water. "Mi chamocha baelim Adnai..."
Music is one of the most powerful forms of prayer. Every Shabbat I know it carries me to new heights of understanding, and brings me closer to Gd. Whether it's accompanying at services, or just singing Shabbat z'mirot, the feeling is there. I know I've told many of you before that what comes out of my hands when I play the piano is t'fillah. (One thing I discovered as a Jewish student at the essentially Xtian Vanderbilt Divinity School is that most Xtians I talked to simply could not conceive of what I mean what I say that. I haven't quite figured out why this is such an alien concept to them.)
Diversion 5: I believe Gd, I really do. I'm singing your praise with every step-but you'd better hurry up and do something soon..."Mi chamocha baelim Adnai..."
But this magic need not be the special province of Shabbat only. Simply by bringing our music with us into the rest of the week, we can keep a little bit of Shabbat with us. It works for me. Driving in the car, in my office, when I go walking...listening to my favorite Jewish music selections helps keep me in that Shabbat mood.
Music can get through to everyone. It touches something inside our souls. This point is brought home everytime I work with children doing some music. It is such a joy to see all those smiling young faces, and to share with them my joy of Judaism and Shabbat in music and song. It is a revitalizing experience. Though it is sometimes scary to "wade into" a pack of young ones, and one mus screw up their courage.
Diversion 6: The water is up to my chin, my lips, Gd. Isn't it time you did something? I'm really trying hard here. Show me that my faith is worth it. Please. We need a real wonder here. Show us. Please. "Mi chamocha baelim Adnai, Mi kamocha nedar bakodesh..."
Sometimes it's the words that are important to me, at other times, it's the music. Both can be equally powerful. Try it yourself. Hum a tune you know for "Mi Chamocha" and see if it doesn't remind you of what happened at the Reed Sea, even without the words.
Diversion 7: Sorry Gd. The water stuck in my throat and I said kamocha instead of chamocha. But you know what I meant. Nobody is like You. You are majestic! So when are we gonna do this thing. I'm really ready Gd. Gd, cut me some slack here, I'm about to drown, I'm about to drown. "Mi chamocha baelim Adnai...
Mi Chamonu? Who is like us? We are the lucky ones. To have such gifts. And such gifts are to be shared.
Diversion 8: Oh my Gd! (Oh, excuse me Gd, I didn't mean that.) But--Wow!! You did it. The waters have parted--we can walk across the sea on dry land.
"Mi chamocha baelim Adnai!" "Mi kamocha nedar bakodesh."
It was a miracle! "Nora t'hilot, oseh feleh."
May your name be forever on my lips, Gd. May I always honor you with song.
Adnai yimloch l'olam va'ed."
May your Shabbat and all your days be filled with the beauty of Shirim.
Adnai yimloch l'olam va-ed.
© 1997, 1999, 2003 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some Previous Musings on the same parasha
Beshalach 5761-Warrior Gd
Beshalach 5762-Manna mania
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