The New Shul

Parshat B’shalah

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah, the Shabbat of Song, because in this week’s parashah we read the Song of the Sea, which the children of Israel sang after the waters had divided for them. The ancient rabbis taught that the experience of redemption at the sea was also an experience of revelation. God’s presence became a living reality for the chidren of Israel as they witnessed the miracle. Their song was a response to their experience of God’s nearness.

But the Slonimer Rebbe taught that it can also work the other way around. Just as song can be a way of responding to God’s nearness, it can also be a way of bringing God near in the first place, by opening our hearts to the transcendent. Sometimes it is the song itself that splits the sea, that enables us to feel God’s presence as our ancestors did.

In our worship on Shabbat, we rely on what the Slonimer taught. We sing, not in response to miracles, but in an effort to create one, to bring God into our world. Melody has a power to open our hearts that words alone do not.

Together, may we rediscover that power each week.