Beshalach/Shira: Can You Fly on Wings of Song?

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1. SHABBAT SHIRA: CAN YOU FLY ON THE WINGS OF SONG?

When feeling bogged down or crushed by life’s relentless pressures, do you ever dream of being able to fly to another place? In a life where your work and daily routines wear you down, how can you find ways to soar above it all? How can you access your free spirit even when being dragged down by the gravitational pull of pedestrian life and mundane monotony?

The Jewish answer is through song.

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira (the “Shabbat of Song”) because today’s Torah reading contains the song which the Israelites sang after the parting of the Re(e)d Sea – the first song ever documented in history. So today we shall talk about song, and the power that music has to provide us with wings that transport us to another time and place and transform our lives.

Music is endlessly mysterious and has a formidable hold over us. Why, for example, is our generation so utterly captivated by music? Human beings are a “musical species” coming into this world musically pre-wired. So writes the famed neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks (best known for his books Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) in his latest offering Musicophilia. But, try as he might, Dr. Sacks cannot solve the mystery why…

Today, on Shabbat Shira, we shall take some “flying lessons” and discover the deeper reason behind the power of music and its ability to lift our spirits to unprecedented heights … to allow us to fly … to travel to far-away places.

2. ARE YOU STUCK? CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE

Do you ever feel stuck in your life? Even if you don’t feel that way just now, every one of us at times feels trapped in one way or another – at work, at home, or in general. We often feel lethargic with nowhere to turn, emotionally or spiritually. What can we do when we feel stuck in a situation?

It doesn’t help when we think about today’s wavering and uncertain national and international state of affairs – the economic upheaval, national health reform, the endless bickering between the Republicans and Democrats in Washington, an unstable Middle East, and now a wild killer unleashing his wrath in a murder spree in Tucson. It all seems to indicate that we are facing a collective crisis of confidence, which mirrors a crisis of confidence on a personal level. What will be? Where to turn? What to do? We are stuck.

This week’s Torah reading – in which we read about the first documented case of being trapped “between a rock and a hard place,” a crisis of biblical proportions – offers us a very powerful solution for getting out of such a quandary.

The newly-freed Jewish slaves are cornered at the sea. In front of them the roiling waters. In back of them the pursuing Egyptians. What will they do? They don’t know. They are not sure. They are stuck.

Since, as we well know, Jews can’t agree on anything, neither could the Israelites. They had four solutions to the problem in front of them … but not one was the right one. They could not decide what to do until God supplied the answer.

We, too, have four common strategies that we generally adopt when confronting adversity. This sermon will reveal the fifth – and most effective – option.

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