We are called Yisrael, the people who struggle with God. Yet, Yisrael can also mean Yashir-El, the one who sings to God. The Piezetzner Rebbe explains, “Music is the key to our souls, waking it and its passions. It is possible to open our soul and release some of our spiritual essence.” Music cannot be seen; it can only be heard and felt. Joey Weisenberg, a leader in the modern musical prayer community, tells the story of an intense service he was leading in Minneapolis. Every participant was heavily involved, swaying their bodies and using their voices. At the height of the experience, the Rabbi opened the door and a negative twenty-nine degree wind rushed in and stunned the congregation. The Rabbi said, “This is to remind us that what we do here, with our prayer and music, must go back out there, must be taken back to the streets.”
Simchat Bet Hashoevia is an ancient custom during Temple times that occurred at the conclusion of Sukkot: A water drawing ceremony accompanied by flutes, trumpets, dancing, and fun. The Mishnah tells us we have not experienced joy if we have not witnessed this ceremony. While this ritual does not exist today, Simchat Torah is the time where music brings us exultation and joy.
The pandemic has opened up religious innovation and ritual in ways like never before. This week, at Sinai Temple, we will replicate that joyous ceremony in our neighborhood. The music, the Torah, and the joy will leave our sacred sanctuary as we celebrate Simchat Torah in our streets. These past two years have been filled with Yis-rael, deep struggles of God and faith. Yet, for one evening, we will concentrate on Yashir-El, singing