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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Our Song

By Rabbi Sender Haber

There are so many elements to Parshas Beshalach: the splitting of the sea, the Mon, and the war with Amalek. Still Shira seems to be the focal point for which the shabbos is named.

Shira can be translated as song, as poetry, or even random sounds. It is an articulation of something that is going on deep in our neshamos.

Shira is not simple. King David wrote the Psalms and somehow he has been the standard bearer for Shirah for over two thousand years. Everyone respects the Psalms of King David.

A life in which we cannot express ourselves and in which we suppress our emotions is a very frustrating life.

The Piasetzner writes in Shalosh Maamaros (2:5) that there are three levels of prophecy. The highest is Ruach Hakodesh, but diectly below that is Shirah. The level right below Shirah is Prayer. The idea is that our souls are full of lofty G-dly ideas. We contain a ‘piece’ of G-d inside of us. We don’t always feel holy because articulating those ideas is tricky and we have so many other thoughts inside of us but when we achieve prayer or Shira we have achieved a measure of Ruach Hakodesh, even prophecy.

I once went to King David’s grave in Israel. Many people say that it is not King David’s grave, the Christians say that it was the site of the last supper and the Muslim’s say that it is theirs, but I felt a need to go so I went.

I went to the sarcophagus and quietly began to say a bit of tehillim from memory. It was the same Tehillim that we say every morning in shul, but this time I was saying it right next to King David. Next to me there was a Breslover clapping loudly and jumping up and down in prayer. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an Israeli teenager walk in. He had no Yarmulke and he looked at the grave and at me and at the Breslover and then he just stood there. He was lost. He couldn’t recite Tehillim from memory and he certainly wasn’t going to jump up and down and clap.

Just then a fourth person walked into the room.

He went over to that Israeli teenager and said “Do you want to pray?” Together they recited – in their native tongue- “Mizmor Ledavid hashem Ro’i Lo Echsar...” – “A psalm written by David: G-d is my shepherd, I shall not want…” I watched as another boy stood by silently waiting his turn. They were Israeli teenagers wandering around the old city. They all wanted to pray and they didn’t know how.

Dovid Hamelech was the heart of all of us. He sang our songs and he wrote our poems. We need to take the time to articulate our feelings before G-d.

If we can do it in prayer, great!

If we can teach others to pray, great!

The main thing is not to let our lives pass us by without learning how to truly access the depths of our hearts – and pray and sing and articulate the holy feelings that percolate inside every one of us.

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