Music has always been at the heart of Judaism in story, history and prayer. In Bereshit, God sings the world into being, and in Shemot, we sing ourselves to freedom as we wade through the red sea. In the book of Dvarim, Moses offered his dying words to Israel in the form of song.
Abraham Joshua Heschel describes song as “the most intimate expression of man.” The Hassidic movement in Judaism elevates the practice of singing wordless melodies, niggunim, as the ultimate method of attaining true prayer. As Rabbi Reuven Hammer writes, “what words can adequately express our prayers to God? What words [alone] can truly capture the depths of our emotions at times of grief or of overwhelming joy?” The melodies of our prayers serve as a vehicle towards d’veikut, the feeling of closeness, or oneness with something greater. The melodies hold up our words. Melody and music become the conduit for our souls.
When we come together as a community, our prayers become offerings to each other, and to God. Praying together on Shabbat is a great mitzvah. Our rabbis and sages teach us to add beauty to this kind of holiness. We call this aesthetic elevation “hiddur mitzvah.” Beauty enhances our mitzot by appealing to our senses. Elevating religious rituals and moments in time, such as Shabbat, to include beautiful sounds, fragrances, textures, colors and artistry becomes in itself a religious dimension, and facilitates our movement into a deep and spiritual enjoyment of religious engagement.
On Shabbat, many special guests help us elevate our worship. Our community choir, and our youth choir, bring us to another level in prayer. This Friday, we welcome incredible multi-instrumentalist, Marla Feeny. Marla will join with us once a month, blending her instruments with our voices, giving us depth, beautiful textures and many more unique experiences in our worship. This added dimension expands the vibrancy we have been building together, and helps us grow even more as a sacred community.
Join us this Friday, in song, prayer, and community!
B’Shira, in song.