Exodus 14: 1 – 17:16
This is the week of crossing through the Yam Suf: the Sea of Reeds. This is the week of the miracle at the shore. This is the week of rescue. This is the week of singing and dancing. This is the week of the miracle of water. This is the week of fighting and winning against the enemy of Amalek.
This week’s Torah portion, Beshallach, is filled with rescue, redemption, praise and miracles. There are miracles large and small. And each of these is cause to sing God’s praise.
The greatest of these is the parting of the sea and the safe crossing of the Israelites to escape the wrath of the Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. The Israelites led by Miriam dance and sing their relief and their praise of God. To this day on the Shabbat of Beshallach we too sing out on this Sabbath of Song.
This week we mark the death of the greatest singer in Israel since King David and Miriam: Debbie Friedman. She was a miracle. She inspired generations of Jews to deeper faith and connection. She helped us sing God’s praise. She didn’t just lead the women in the dancing and singing but the entire tribe of the people Israel transforming our synagogues, summer camps, youth movements and indeed our lives. Her words and melodies helped contemporary liberal Jews develop a vocabulary of faith and tradition and connection. Like Moses who in this week’s portion stretches his staff across the waters and they split, Debbie stretched us and molded us into Jews connected God, Torah and Israel. She helped us cross over through her music from cynicism to the possibility of God’s presence in our lives. Whether through her melody for Havdalah, Lechi Lach, the Mishebeyrach-Healing Prayer, or Im Tirzu, Not By Might, Sing Unto God or one of her myriads of settings for Mi Camocha, or Lecha Dodi or V’shamru, she lifted us up and helped fight back the Amalek of our doubts about our faith as Moses lifts up his hands to help Joshua fight back against our enemies.
Debbie’s life is a testament to the importance of music and singing. No wonder the latest study of the brain revealed that music is as important to the brain and soothing to the brain as sex! (http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Music+produces+natural+high+McGill+study+finds/4084087/story.html)
Debbie’s music helped soothe our brains and our souls.
So on this week of Parshat Beshallach when we read the Song of the Sea and celebrate the miracle of the parting of the waters, we sing praises to God for this miracle and for the miracle of the life and talent of Debbie Friedman. She will live on in our synagogues through the prayers we sing and her music. May her memory live for a blessing!