Friday, January 22, 2016

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Beshalakh 5776 - Mi Kamonu?

It's Shabbat Shirah for which I offer this classic musing from 5759, as I've never been able to say it better, although I've added even more new elements this time around.

Random Musings Before Shabbat-Beshalach (Shabbat Shirah) 5759 (revised 5763, 5776)

Mi Kamonu?

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ, מִי כָּמֹֽכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּֽדֶשׁ, נוֹרָא תְהִלֹּת עֹֽשֵׂה פֶֽלֶא

Who is like You, Ad”nai, among the gods? Who is like You, awesome in splendor, working wonders?

For a brief moment, I considered making that my entire musing for today. After all, it sums up for me, quite distinctly, what I think about G”d.

Diversion 1: But, like Nachshon, I'll plunge ahead into the waters anyway-even as unsure as I am of what lies ahead, saying "Mi khamokha baelim Ad”nai..."

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ

G”d is quite remarkable, of that there is no doubt (or so I used to think.  Nw I wonder if remarkable is the right word. Now, I am also willing to admit to mements when there is a lot of doubt about G”d.) But G”d created a creature and endowed it with some truly remarkable features as well. (Well, evolution and natural selection did that, but it remains miraculous that it happened as it did, and I still wonder what part G”d might have played in all of that-if any.)  Out of all the gifts G”d gave to this creature, known as humankind, one stands out as a unique way to thank and praise our creator. It may not be G”d's greatest gift to us, but it sure ranks up there. (We are the recipient of so many gifts from G”d I would be hard pressed to prioritize them: Shabbat, Torah, freedom from slavery, love, senses, etc. If I were to hazard a guess, I might place Shabbat above all-for it came before Torah, as we are taught. But that's a discussion for another time.)

Diversion 2: I step into the sea. (Or reed swamp, or whatever it was.) It's cold. The wind is blowing. Moshe promises the waters will part. I believe. I'll plunge ahead. But it sure is cold and windy. This is hard to do alone. From where can I find the strength to go on?

The gift I am speaking of is the gift of music and song. What a glorious and remarkable gift it is. Those of you who know me well know that music is at the very core of my Judaism. That's why this Shabbat, Shabbat Shirah, is always one of my favorite Shabbats.

And since the gift of music is such a special one, what better way to thank and praise G”d but through music. With music we praise, thank, glorify, remember, teach, share, love.

Diversion 3: Well, the water is up to my waist, and it's still cold and wet and windy. This is hard. Maybe if I sing a tune as I go, keeping praise for G”d on my lips. "Mi khamokha baelim Ad”nai..."

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ

In "Sparks Beneath the Surface" Larry Kushner and Kerry Olitzsky relate a teaching of Rabbi A. Chein. The Rabbi teaches that the reason we remember the miracle of what happened at the Reed Sea is because of the song they sung (Shirat Hayam.) Yet we do not recall Joshua leading Israel across the Jordan near Jericho - another miracle of waters split asunder and crossing on dry land.[Joshua 3:16-17] for it lacks the musical attestation.

What a beautiful teaching, that eloquently demonstrates the power of song and music. Much of what I first learned of the history of the Jewish people was through song and poetry, and I daresay this is true for many of us.

Diversion 4: That does help. Singing I mean. It makes me feel braver and better and warmer. But it's still cold and wet and windy, and Moshe is standing there with his staff in the air and I'm up to my armpits in cold, wet, water. "Mi khamokha baelim Ad”nai..."

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ

Music is one of the most powerful forms of prayer. Every Shabbat I know it carries me to new heights of understanding, and brings me closer to G”d. Whether it's accompanying at services, or just singing Shabbat z'mirot, the feeling is there. I know I've told many of you before that what comes out of my hands when I play the piano is t'fillah. (One thing I discovered as a Jewish student at the essentially Xtian Vanderbilt Divinity School is that most Xtians I talked to simply could not conceive of what I mean what I say that. I haven't quite figured out why this is such an alien concept to them.)

Diversion 5: I believe G”d, I really do. I'm singing your praise with every step-but you'd better hurry up and do something soon..."Mi khamokha baelim Ad”nai..."

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ

But this magic need not be the special province of Shabbat only. Simply by bringing our music with us into the rest of the week, we can keep a little bit of Shabbat with us. It works for me. Driving in the car, in my office, my classroom, when I go walking...listening to my favorite Jewish music selections helps keep me in that Shabbat mood.

Music can get through to everyone. It touches something inside our souls. This point is brought home everytime I work with children doing some music. It is such a joy to see all those smiling young faces, and to share with them my joy of Judaism and Shabbat in music and song. It is a revitalizing experience. Though it is sometimes scary to "wade into" a pack of young ones, and one must screw up their courage to do so. I’ve been doing it a very long time now, and as a music teacher at a Jewish day school, along with myother Jewish roles, I get to do it every day. However, even after decades of doing it, it can still be scary to wade in to the sea of children. On the other hand, even after all these decades doing it, it still feels revitalizing and energizing.

Diversion 6: The water is up to my chin, my lips, G”d. Isn't it time you did something? I'm really trying hard here. Show me that my faith is worth it. Please. We need a real wonder here. Show us. Please. "Mi khamokha baelim Adnai, Mi kamokha nedar bakodesh..."

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ, מִי כָּמֹֽכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּֽדֶשׁ

Sometimes it's the words that are important to me, at other times, it's the music. Both can be equally powerful. Try it yourself. Hum a tune you know for "Mi Khamokha" and see if it doesn't remind you of what happened at the Reed Sea, even without the words.

Diversion 7: Sorry G”d. The water stuck in my throat and I said kamokha instead of khamocha. But you know what I meant. You care little for arcane rules of grammar and pronunciation (I hope.)  Nobody is like You. You are majestic! So when are we gonna do this thing. I'm really ready G”d. G”d, cut me some slack here, I'm about to drown, I'm about to drown. "Mi khamokha baelim Ad”nai, Mi kamokha nedar bakodesh...”

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ, מִי כָּמֹֽכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּֽדֶשׁ

Mi Kamonu? Who is like us? We are the lucky ones. To have such gifts. And such gifts are to be shared.

Diversion 8: Oh my G”d! (Oh, excuse me G”d, I didn't mean that.) But--Wow!! You did it. The waters have parted--we can walk across the sea (swamp?) on dry land.

"Mi khamokha baelim Adnai!" "Mi kamokha nedar bakodesh."

מִי כָמֹֽכָה בָּאֵלִם יְיָ, מִי כָּמֹֽכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּֽדֶשׁ

It was a miracle! "Nora t'hilot, oseh feleh."

נוֹרָא תְהִלֹּת עֹֽשֵׂה פֶֽלֶא

May your name be forever on my lips, G”d. May I always honor you with song.

Ad”nai yimlokh l'olam va'ed."

יְיָ יִמְלֹךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

May your Shabbat and all your days be filled with the beauty of Shirim.

Ad”nai yimloch l'olam va-ed.

יְיָ יִמְלֹךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

Shabbat Shalom,


©2016 (portions ©1997, 1999, 2003) by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this Parasha:

Beshalakh 5775 - I'm Not Doing It Alone
Beshalakh 5774 - A Lot Can Change in 13 Years - Or Not
Beshalakh 5773 - Moshe's Musings (Revised from 5760)
Beshalakh 5772 - Thankful For the Worst
Beshalakh 5771 - Praying That Moshe Was Wrong
Beshalakh 5768 - Man Hu
Beshalakh 5767-March On
Beshalakh 5766-Manna Mania II
Beshalakh 5765-Gd's War
Beshalach 5763-Mi Chamonu
Beshalach 5760-Moshe's Musings
Beshalach 5762-Manna mania
Beshalach 5761-Warrior Gd

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