The New Shul

Weekly D'var Torah

In this week’s parashah, Miketz, Yaakov sends his sons down to Egypt to buy grain from the chief minister of Egypt, who will later turn out to be their brother Yosef.  As Yaakov sends his sons off, he tells them to take gifts with them “m’zimrat ha-aretz, from the produce of the land,” to try to gain the favor of the Egyptian who holds their lives in his hands.

The word zimrah can also mean melody.  Based on that, Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav taught that what Yaakov really meant was that his sons should take with them a melody, a niggun, from their home, as they went down to Egypt. But why? What protective power could music offer?

Music brings no outer protection, to be sure. But it can help to strengthen us internally. It does so by drawing out the sacred spark within us, binding us to one another, to our past, and to our deepest Source.  At times when we feel lost and vulnerable — as Yaakov’s sons must have felt as they left home for Egypt — a melody can remind us who we really are:  images of God.

That is why song plays such a central role in our shared spiritual life as Jews, at Hanukah and throughout the year. Even more than words, a niggun — if we put our hearts into it — can help us to bring light into the darkness. Each voice that we add to our songs of prayer and celebration, like each candle that we add on the successive nights of Hanukah, can bring a little more of God into the world.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush-lunch this Shabbat, December 8, will be sponsored by Alyssa and Gabriel Wolk-Bankier.
  • Join us this Saturday night December 8, the seventh night of Hanukah, at 7:30 pm for our annual Hanukah Coffee House. There will be lots of live music and other entertainment by our own local talent, plus home-made latkes and other refreshments. The cost is $5 per adult at the door.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.