75 words for 75 years of Israel – Shirah/Song

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.

Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

שִׁירָה

SHIRAH

SHEER-AH

SONG

“Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to God. They said: I will sing to God, for He triumphed gloriously; horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1)

אז ישיר משה ובני ישראל את השירה הזאת ליהוה ויאמרו לאמר אשירה ליהוה כי גאה גאה סוס ורכבו רמה בים.

“Therefore, write down this song and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths, in order that this song may be My witness against the people of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 31:19)

ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל שימה בפיהם למען תהיה לי השירה הזאת לעד בבני ישראל.

Shirah, Hebrew for “song,” is a critical tool for drawing closer to God. The numerical equivalent of shira, song, is the same as that for tefillah, prayer, for a song that comes from the heart is a form of prayer to God.

When God saved the people of Israel and drowned the terrifying Egyptian army at the Reed Sea, the people sang to God. “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to God. They said: I will sing to God, for He triumphed gloriously; horse and driver He has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:1). After the awesome miracle of the splitting of the seat, mere words of thanks to God could not capture their emotions, and so Moses and the people burst into song.

The great Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic movement in 18th-century Russia, used the power of song to inspire the downtrodden Jewish masses to feel the joy of God’s love, despite their intense poverty and suffering at the hands of antisemites. He knew that the song of the soul would give the people strength to bear and overcome their suffering. Many students of the Baal Shem Tov went on to become Hasidic leaders in their own communities and composed their own songs of longing for God.

The Bible is also referred to as a song, as the verse says, “Therefore, write down this song and teach it to the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19). When read publicly in synagogues, the Bible is always chanted with ancient melodies that have been passed down for generations, melodies that help the congregation absorb the powerful words of the Bible.

The Israel Bible Team

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