“I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” —Psalm 104:33
Ever since I could remember as a child, music and songs have been such an integral part of my life. I cherish the memories of sitting around the table with my father, mother, and siblings on Shabbat singing songs of praise to God. Songs of faith and inspiration have always been part of my spiritual heritage, and one that I have sought to pass on to my three daughters.
Indeed, I had the privilege of performing with my daughter, Talia, on a CD entitled Shiray Dorot, Songs of Generations, celebrating the joy of passing on the traditions, values, and heritage of faith as expressed through music.
Remember what Moses and the people of Israel did after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and watching as the entire Egyptian army perished in the sea? They broke into song! First, Moses led the people in a song of deliverance. Then Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, grabbed a tambourine and led all the women in song and dance!
Since that time, music has played an important part in Israel’s worship and celebration. Singing not only was an expression of love and thanksgiving, it also was a way to pass along from generation to generation the stories of faith and oral tradition. David, one of the most prolific and greatest songwriters of the Bible, composed songs of thanksgiving and celebration, of prayer and supplication, of pain and praise that we now treasure as the Psalms. David was also instrumental (no pun intended) in organizing musical worship by appointing a choir of Levites who were singers and musicians to “make a joyful sound” (1 Chronicles 15:16).
I believe that music, especially songs inspired by the Psalms and other Scripture, is a common bond that Christians and Jews share. It is one avenue that has been so important to me in building bridges of understanding between our two faith communities and introducing Christians to the rich Jewish roots of their faith.
For generations, hymns and songs have been a wonderful way to express ourselves before God and to lift our voices to him. Whether you are musically talented or not doesn’t matter to God. What matters is your heart’s song.
What will you sing to Him today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein