My short teaching on this Shabbat is 2 fold: tonight I’ll share with you some thoughts and quotes from the world of prayer, the world of song and Jewish Mysticism.
In a way, prayer is a song: it’s a song of one’s soul and heart. And this week’s Shabbat muzikali reflects the song of my own heart and soul.
Rabbi DovBer Pinson wrote in his book The Kabbalah of Music that “Music has the distinct ability to stimulate a rainbow of emotions. One song can evoke joyous feelings, while another prompts sadness…The reason people are so affected and moved by music is because it reflects the sounds in which the soul was accustomed to hearing, prior to its descent into this world. It is the language of ‘above.’”
It is for this reason that children in particular are soothed by music.
Shalom Aleichem Malachei Ha’sharet
One of my beloved teachers, Rabbi Mordechai Finley taught us that in Jewish mysticism, the Seraphim, the archangels, or Malachei Ha’Sharet, Malachei Elyon, were created for one and only purpose: to serve God, to sing God’s praises and hail the Art of Creation with love and devotion unto the Creator.
Angles would always praise God, because this is the nature, the essence of their being. Just as humans naturally express love to one another, so is the nature of the archangels: they adore and love the Divine. If a skeptic would ask: “Why should there be so much love and praises for God?” One could answer that the angles “are driven to express love and gratitude to God, just as human’s natural drive is to express adoration to beauty.”
In the book of Iyov, Job 38:7 it is written that the angels “shouted for joy” and “sang together in awe, in unison and thankfulness when they first saw the earth’s foundations laid out.”
This is why our Sages, the ancient righteous ones, have always chosen a path of singing before the Holy One: to get a taste of that loving relationship between the angels and God.
Our liturgy, when expressed through song, teaches us how to sing unto God, express our love for the Divine, and by doing so, we get to tap into that same essence, as experienced by the angles themselves.
Let’s turn to page 142 and welcome the ministering angels, the messengers of the most high, majesty of majesties, Holy One of blessing. Shalom Aleichem, is a 17th century Shabbat song, probably composed under the influence of Lurianic Kabbalah, which stated that “Two Archangels accompany each of us home form the synagogue as Shabbat begins.”
“Shalom Aleichem Malachei Ha’Sharet, may peace engulf and surround you, O Archangels, as you bless us with your presence.”
Before Psalm 150
In our Siddur, on page 211, we find a quote by Reform Rabbi Israel Mattuck who wrote:
“Prayer gives us the guidance we need. It opens the mind to the illumination of God…Through prayer, we can receive the guidance of God to strengthen our hold on truth, goodness, righteousness and purity, which are the laws of humanity emanating from the nature of God.”
Music prepares the heart to speak genuine words of adoration, until one’s words are overflowing with love, devotion and kavanah, true intention.
In our ancient Holy Temple, the Levites would sing their songs, accompanying themselves with a variety of musical instruments, including an Ugav, a stringed instrument, Tof, tambourine or hand-drum, Kinor, violin, Tzilzalim, cymbals, Shofar and Chatzotzra trumpet, Chalil ve’Nevel, flute and harp.
These instruments are mentioned in Psalm 150, from the Book of Tehillim. There are 150 Psalms: in Gimatria, the esoteric study of numbers, adding 1+5+0 equals the number 6, which corresponds to the 6 days of creation. Add One, which is not only a reference to our One God, Adoani Echad—it is also a reference to the one day of rest, known as Shabbat, our Holy Sabbath Day. Shabbat.
How beautifully intricate is the connection between the Book of 150 Psalms, One God, and the One Day of Holy Shabbat, which is God’s gift to humanity.
The Kabbalists say that each element in our world has its tune that accompanies it, each existence in Nature has it’s own spiritual rhythm. There is a heavenly rhythm above that parallels the rhythm below. When one is attuned to a higher reality, one can then hear these sounds, which continuously emanate from nature, and resonate with those heavenly rhythms from above.
The soul, then becomes One with all.
And in the spirit of this teaching, we will now join together in singing God’s praises: Ha’leluya! Praise be to the One, as we surround ourselves with these sounds of our hearts and souls.
Rabbi Meeka Simerly