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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘song’

Redeeming Relevance: A Bittersweet Song You Better Remember: Parshas Ha’azinu & Jewish Destiny

Friday, October 14th, 2016

As we near the end of the Torah and the accounts of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, we encounter a most unusual section – nearly an entire parsha, set up as a song, which predicts poor behavior of the Jewish people in the future.

Moshe states, in the preceding parsha (Devarim 31: 28) that he delivered this song by “speaking in the ears” of the people, a phrase that echoes Bilaam’s comments that the prophecies he received from God came when He “put them into (his) mouth” (Bamidbar 23:12). This indicates some unwillingness of the recipient to accept the message.

We learn in the Gemara (Eruvin 54b) that the song of Ha’azinu should be familiar to every Jew, to the point where we know it by heart. So we have a peculiar dichotomy – an unpleasant song that must be placed in the ears of the people, that they are expected to memorize.

What is it in this song of Jewish betrayal of God and consequent suffering that makes it a ‘song’ and merits such dedication?

It may well be that the answer lives in the promise that God will never sever his unique covenant with the Jewish people (Devarim 32: 26-27, 36) no matter how badly they stray or how severely they are punished.

Our closest relationships should entail a deep, primal commitment. One will sometimes help his children for no other reason than the connection that exists between parent and child. For a child to grow up emotionally and spiritually healthy, he needs to know of that primal relationship, even though that is usually not the motivation behind the care he receives from his parents. His relationship with his parents is generally marked by love and pride on their part, which override attention to his less admirable qualities. But within the course of a lifetime, it is not uncommon for a child to act at times in such a way as to relinquish all but the primal bond between him and his parents.

What is true within the family is equally true within the nation. God’s foremost desire is to conduct a relationship with the Jewish people built on love and commitment. But they often stray very far from this ideal and when they do, God punishes the Jewish people, sometimes very severely. Things can and unfortunately do get very bad, but regardless, the song of Ha’azinu reassures us that the relationship will never die.

{This essay is based on Chapter Eight: The Bitter Song in Rabbi Francis Nataf’s newly published book, Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Deuteronomy: Explorations in Text and Meaning (Urim Publications, 2016). Harry Glazer provided editorial assistance}

Rabbi Francis Nataf

The Song of Creation

Friday, October 7th, 2016

{Originally posted  to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

Moses could no longer move around? How does a man who says, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I can no longer go out and come in,” manage to walk through the camps of all twelve tribes to say farewell?
The people of each neighborhood excitedly gather for this unprecedented visit and Moses begins his speech, “I am a 120 years old today and can’t move around that well.” I can picture a precocious child challenging him, “You seem to be doing a good job getting around. This is the first time we’ve seen you around here!”

I hear Moses explaining, “I’m far too old to get around as I do. My visit is to prove to you that my unusual strength doesn’t come from me; it comes from you. I will no longer be able to derive my strength from you now that Joshua is assuming leadership. I will have to rely on myself and will no longer be able to come and go. My strength is yours. My accomplishments are yours. This farewell visit is an acknowledgement and thank you.”

It is only after the people hear their great prophet and teacher acknowledge that his strength is theirs’ that he can teach his final commandment, “Write this song for yourselves.” Moses wants each of us to write a Torah, not as a book of laws or teachings, but as a song. The Song of Torah comes from us, the people, not Moses. He can present the Book, but it is the people who understand that all his great accomplishments derived from them, despite their failures, who write the Torah as a song. The Song of Torah is our composition. We are the conductors who guide God’s laws and teachings to play in harmony as a majestic symphony. “Give us our portion in Torah,” we pray each day. Each of us can find our perfect note, the Torah resonating in our souls. “We will become a unified group to fulfill Your will,” we will combine all our notes in perfect harmony filling the universe with the symphony of a creation that has learned that the music is ours.

We will recite the Confession ten times over Yom Kippur. The Talmud insists that Confession, Vidui, should be read as Todah, a Thanksgiving Offering. The music of confession is composed by our approach to the Vidui: A long list of terrible sins is played to terrifying music. A Confession as celebration of “I participate in the Song of Creation despite my failures,” is exhilarating; a Thanksgiving Symphony. It is this music that plays in the way we sing the Confession aloud to a joyous tune. It is this music that plays for the parade of the Kohen Gadol after he completes the Yom Kippur Temple service. It is the music to which the young women danced on Yom Kippur. It is the music of Torah. It is the same music to which Moses achieved so much. It is our music. It is the Song of Creation.

I wish each of you a joyous Yom Kippur on which you discover your note in Torah, your role in the Song of Creation, the music to which you can dance every day of the year.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,

Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

Fountainheads – Hope

Monday, September 12th, 2016

I know it’s the Ein Prat Fountainheads’ Yom Haatmaut song, but it’s really a nice video for any time of the year.

Video of the Day

To Sing A New Song… Our Children And Students

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

When I was a principal, I would often walk through the halls of my school during class. When I did, I would glance in the classrooms and, even with the doors closed and in the relative silence of the hallway, I would be able to identify what I considered a “successful” classroom.

It is, of course, easy to identify an “unsuccessful” classroom – when students are not paying attention; when they are disruptive; when the teacher sits behind the desk and shows no enthusiasm for his material or the delivery of it. These are “red flags” that cry out, unsuccessful. But successful? For me, when I saw students engaged in the instruction and, most importantly, when I saw them actively participating then I knew there was successful teaching and learning going on. That is, if I could see evidence of students learning independently then I knew I was witnessing a successful classroom. Without exception, when I saw a classroom with students participating, I saw a teacher with a smile on his face.

That smile told me that my teacher found joy not just in the material he was teaching – after all, in Jewish day schools and yeshivas is not all our material valuable and worthy of our joyous review and teaching? – but, more importantly, the joy of his students’ learning!

Thinking back on that time, I think about the advice a colleague shared with his teachers. He told them, “Make your classroom like your home and treat your students as your guests.” And another, who wisely noted that teaching, is really just another form of “parenting.”

We intuitively understand the close connection between parenting and teaching. After all, we refer to our colleges as our alma maters – our “nurturing mothers.”

Teaching and parenting. Two sides of the same coin. In both, it is essential that we are “successful.” The question is, What does that mean?

When I was in the classroom, I cherished the moments when I reviewed text and ideas with my students but my greatest joy was when they were able to take what I shared with them and discover something new and unique.

I reveled in their independence. It seems odd to say that as a teacher, when for so many the role of teacher is to “pass along” knowledge. But learning is not and should not be passive.   Students are not mere vessels to be filled with information.

There is much a student or child can do simply by “following instruction.” Swimming is not one of them! To swim is to be independent, is to have the judgment and intelligence to read changing variables and tides, to be able manage shallow shoals and dangerous depths. That is what a teacher – and a parent – must prepare a student and child to do.

Not long ago, a mother and father wrote to a rebbi, saying they had waited for the day when their son, who had always been a caring and good student, “would pick up a Gemarah on his own on a Shabbos afternoon.” That day finally arrived just as their son was getting ready to graduate 12th grade.

That school succeeded!  Those parents succeeded!

The child could swim!

* * *

As the child, so too the Children of Israel.

There were two great songs recorded in the Torah, the more famous being Az Yashir. “Then sang Moshe and B’nai Yisrael this shirah…”, praising the splitting of the yam suf and allowing the Children of Israel to be free at last from their bondage in Mitzrayim.   The other, less well known, is tucked away near the end of Chukas, a short song of gratitude for the uninterrupted supply of water (the well!) throughout the forty years sojourn in the desert.  “Then Israel sang this song; ‘Come up, O well, announce it! Well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people excavated, through a lawgiver, with their staff. A gift from the Wilderness.” The song then traces the path of the well /water that followed the nation, no matter how high the elevation or difficult the terrain. The gift went from the valley to the heights. And from the heights to the valley in the field of Moab, at the top of the peak, overlooking the surface of the wilderness.

The irony of childhood is that it is only after it is over, when we are adults and independent, do we realize that we were in a period of innocence, that we could not have become what we’ve become without the guidance and wisdom of our parents.

So too, as the Children of Israel sang, they finally understood that they could never have made it without God’s constant and consistent be’er –well – supply of water, but make it they did. They are about to enter the Land, and are leaving God a note of thanks, very much like the bride tucking a thank you note for her parents before leaving for the Chupah, or the student for his rebbi before graduation. They are saying “thank you” knowing that they are able to move forward independently because they had been nurtured and loved – and prepared and expected to be independent!

The Promised Land was a long, hard forty years away. The ‘Song of the Well’ was celebrated at the end of that long journey. Throughout that journey, Moshe taught many important lessons, lessons that B’nai Yisrael fortunately absorbed.

When they first escaped Mitzrayim, the people were burdened with a slave mentality; they were like little children who had to be taught everything, even how to say “thank you” for their deliverance.   Thus, az yashir Moshe and B’nai Yisrael. But then, forty years hence, after hardships and joys, after the lessons of Sinai, including more than half of Torah mitzvoth bein adam l’chaveiro, with countless lessons of gratitude and appreciation conveyed everywhere in the Torah it was “graduation” time, it was time to step forward as a proud, independent nation. It was time for Moshe, as a parent and teacher would, to sit back confident and gratified that the children will do the right thing, they will say “thank you” to God.

They had learned to learn on their own.

Was it hard for Moshe to stay silent and not sing with them? Of course. It was hard for him and for them. It is always “easier” for parents to “do for” their children; it is always easier for the teacher to tell the student what he or she needs to know. But how much more joyous, how much more satisfying, how much more meaningful to have brought children and students to the place where they can “do it themselves”?

Moshe, the archetypal parent and teacher, has shown how to raise children and teach students. He is shepping the nachas!

Moshe is not simply hearing a repetition of the song he led B’nei Yisrael in singing. He is hearing a new song. And that is the greatest joy of the parent and the teacher, to hear his or her child or student sing a “new song”, a song that could never have been sung without their love, guidance and faith – faith in the child to one day walk forward as an individual!

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

Live: Lipa Schmeltzer & Corrine Allal – Ein Li Eretz Acheret

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Video of the Day

The Fountainheads Passover Song

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Video of the Day

Sounds Israeli: The Idan Raichel Project

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Idan Raichel burst on to the Israeli musical scene in 2003, inviting collaborations from artists of multiple ethnicities and singing in languages as diverse as Spanish, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili. The resulting highly evocative music – blending African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds – made Raichel one of his country’s biggest musical breakthroughs.

Here’s a live version of his 2010 hit song “Mima’amakim” (Out of the depths).

Visit CifWatch.

Adam Levick

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/cifwatch/sounds-israeli-the-idan-raichel-project/2013/04/30/

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