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August 20, 2014 | 24th Av 5774

Karen Humphrey, Temple Rodef Sholom, Waco, TX

This week we read the Torah portion B'shalach, which includes the Song at the Sea (Shirah Ha-Yam). This shabbat has come to be known as Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song. As I was preparing this commentary, news was spreading across Facebook of the passing of Debbie Friedman, an icon of American Jewish music who did so much to bring joy and a renewed sense of the spirit to our worship. Several of her songs have become liturgical standards. Plaut's commentary on this Torah portion speaks of how music and dancing were once integral parts of Jewish worship, until both were removed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The rise of Chasidism slowly brought such joyous expressions back to our worship. In our own times, the music of Debbie Friedman reached out across denominational lines and brought Jews together in joy and song. One comment on Facebook said that it was now up to us to keep Debbie's light shining, that the torch was now in our hands. Indeed there is a legacy of song and feeling that has been left for us, and it is up to us to keep our voices raised (even if they're off-key!) and to let music help us to not only express our deepest selves, but also to reach out to others. Music can bring people together, and it can be a tremendous force for healing. Thank you, Debbie, for all the music. Your memory will be for blessing.

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