Martin Luther King wrote “We may have all come here on different boats, but we are all in the same ship now.” Tonight is the Shabbat closest to Martin Luther King’s Birthday. King’s teachings on freedom, justice and hope will be woven into our service which starts at 6:30pm via Zoom. We will be joined by Rev. Merle McJunkin, from the Antioch Baptist Church, who will deliver a sermon about King’s legacy in our lives and the promise of partnership to fulfill the dream of justice and liberty for all.
Tonight, is also Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song, we will read in the Torah the famous Mi Chamocha song that Moses and Miriam sang by the shore of the sea when our people escaped Egyptian slavery. This was the original “Redemption Song,” with all due respect to Bob Marley. Our tradition also sees this as the time of the liberation of trees from the slavery of winter. Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish Birthday of the Trees, occurs under the full moon of winter this week!
There is an Ashkenazi custom that we should feed the birds this Shabbat with the crumbs left over from our Shabbes Challah. This is to thank the birds for teaching us how to sing. The word “Song” never occurs in the Torah until this week in the “Song at the Sea.” Egyptian slavery was so soul crushing we couldn’t even sing. When we ran to freedom across the sea, birds flew overhead singing. The ex-slaves looked up and listened and learned from the birds how to sing and we haven’t stopped singing since!
There is one more thing to sing about. This week is also the Yahrzeit of the most influential composer of Jewish music in America. Debbie Friedman died 11 years ago. Debbie’s music is sung every shabbat in Reform Temples, Conservative Synagogues and even Orthodox Schuls throughout this country. Shortly after she died the premier college for training cantors in America was renamed the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music.
Please join us tonight for songs of Debbie Friedman, Moses and Miriam by the Sea, and the songs that inspired the Rev Martin Luther King for our congregation’s Shabbat Shira tonight at 6:30pm. And remember to feed and thank the birds!
Rabbi David Wilfond