How do you define music? Dependent on the combination of notes, music can create cacophony or harmony. In western music, with 12 finite notes, it is up to the musician to create the masterpiece. Music carries us through our lives. We sing when a baby is born and we sing when a loved one passes. We sing when we feel loved and we sing when we are upset. Some of the most well known spirituals came from the enslaved who sang to pass the time.
In the Talmud, Rashi gives exceptions as to who could violate Shabbat in order to create music. He lists people such as boat haulers, who had the most difficult jobs, as he understood the soothing power of music.
Music wakes us up and music puts us to sleep. The same 12 notes have the power to transform–it all depends on how we hear them in our hearts and souls.
This Shabbat, we will once again listen to the sounds of our ancestors crossing the sea. Shirat Hayam–the song of the sea, contains one of the most well known prayers--Mi Chamocha–“Who is like You God, the God who creates miracles.”
Each Sunday, our religious school students belt out this song. It ends by repeating those words, oseh feleh, three times, softer, louder, and finally shouting at the top of their lungs.
The Israelites could not imagine what was in store from them as they entered the wilderness, but they did know that if they started to sing, others would hear them, learn the melody, and thousands of years later, we are still signing their song.