Gift of the Heart

Mitzvah of the Week:

A Gift of the Heart

“A time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”

(Ecclesiastes 3:4).


This Shabbat has its own name: Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song.  Its name comes from this week’s Torah reading, B’Shallach, as we read of the Israelites’ miraculous escape from Egypt.  When they arrive on the other side of the Sea of Reeds, Moses sings “the Song at the Sea” – Shirat HaYam – followed by Miriam leading the women in singing and dancing. Even the Haftarah this week is a song, the poem of Deborah, the prophet and judge. 


Most of us experience music as entertainment, but in Judaism song is “the loftiest level of spirituality, for song can inspire joy and joy causes the Divine spirit to manifest itself.” (Shabbos 30b, the Talmud,


Last week, we experienced that lofty level of spirituality at Congregation Emeth, when we were led in song and prayer by Craig Taubman and his band.  Before services, Craig asked me why it was so important to me to bring him here, both in terms of expense and effort.  I didn’t get to answer him, but I want to tell you:


Nothing lifts my soul and brings me closer to the Holy One of blessings than Jewish music.  When we sing together as a congregation, I am moved.  When I hear cantors and beautiful singers of Jewish prayers, I get lost in their song. I’ve been blessed to be in Craig’s company, and with Debbie Friedman (may her memory be a blessing) many times.  I’ve heard and learned from some of the greatest cantors of our generation.  I just wanted you to have that opportunity too.  It was a pure gift, from the heart.


Your mitzvah of this week is to discover your own passion and share it with another. The sharing may come as a physical object, or it may be a story, or yes, even a song.  Is there someone in your life who is ill, or lonely, or just needs cheering up?  What is your gift that might lift their spirits?  Find your gift, and share it.


May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace,

Rabbi Debbie Israel