For the week of January 30, 1999 / 13 Shevat 5759
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 4:4-5:31


I will sing to the LORD, I will sing;
I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel (Judges 5:3).

This week's portion is made up of the historical event of Deborah and Barak's victory over Jabin, the Canaanite king. Immediately following, the story is retold through song. Retelling something through song was most likely common in ancient Israel. We know that using song to tell a story is common in many cultures. Many folk songs come out of a people's experience or history. In fact the way the Hebrew Scriptures were passed down to us was with the understanding that the words would be sung not just read.

Song grabs the hearer's attention more easily than narrative. The singing of a song tells people that there is something worth noticing. Skillful singing and musicianship help of course. We are drawn to the sounds, which carry the message of the words to our ears.

Song captures emotions more graphically. We find it difficult to communicate feelings through words alone. Song fills the gap and reconstitutes the emotions of original events.

Song helps us to remember things more readily. The combination of words, rhythm, and melody provide people with memory clues. The patterns created in song are something like building blocks in our minds. Often all we have to do is remember how a song begins, and we are able to recall the rest of the song.

Song is most often from the heart. Whether we sing of an experience or a wish, songs express where we are at or what we most desire.

What are you singing? Is it the latest "number one" song? - or maybe it is the commercial you just heard? Do you know what you are singing? Stop and listen. Is it what you really want to sing? Is it where your heart is at? Is it where you want your heart to be?

If you wrote a song, what would it sound like? Has something noteworthy (excuse the pun) happened to you lately? What kind of tune goes with where you are at today?

Try this: Write down a sentence that describes how you are feeling about life right now. Then think of a tune, original or not, that captures the primary emotion you feel. As you let the tune go though your mind, say the sentence. Then try singing the sentence with the tune. Feel free to rearrange the words if you like.

After you have done that for a while, do the same exercise, thinking of how you would like things to be right now. Maybe then you can share your new songs with someone else.

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