A Song of David at the National Mall

November 16, 2023

Electrifying. It’s the only word I can think of to describe the 290,000 Jews and Christians who rallied together at the National Mall in Washington DC on Tuesday, the largest pro-Israel gathering in history. The Jewish people have awakened, and millions of good Christians stand together with God’s people.

The speeches themselves were a mixed bag. A few speakers spoke powerfully, including Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son Hersh was badly wounded and kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. But many of the other speeches were stiff and tepid, a poor reflection of the crowd’s intense emotion. But the music – oh, the music! Ishai Ribo, the most beloved singer in Israel today – and a religious Jew – brought the rally to life with his rousing Biblical songs. The contrast between the speeches and songs was stark.

Why did the speakers almost uniformly fail to inspire? And how did the musicians succeed where the speakers failed? The answer, as always, is found in the Bible.

The early books of the prophets, the Books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel, are not merely history. These books recount the long and twisted path from Israel’s initial entry into the Holy Land until the time of Solomon, who inaugurated a long era of peace and built the first Temple in Jerusalem. In Jewish thought, these stories serve as a blueprint for our own generation, charting the path to the final redemption and the building of the third Temple in Jerusalem.

Just as Joshua entered the land, so did modern Zionists. Just as the tribes of Israel fought with one another in the Book of Judges, so have the modern “tribes” of Israel struggled to live together. And just as David overcame great pain to unite the people and defeat their enemies, modern Israelis heroically persevere despite the attacks and condemnations of most of the world. When we study these books, we are studying ourselves.

Both Jews and Christians await the arrival of the “Messiah the son of David,” the modern-day Solomon who will build the third Temple and usher in the final era of redemption and world peace. Solomon was the wisest man in human history, the man who understood what others could not. He is known for authoring books of extraordinary wisdom: Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. When we pray for the final Messiah, the son of David, we are praying for a leader like Solomon, who will bring complete clarity to the world. When he comes, all of mankind will know God and we will all understand, finally, why we had to experience so much pain and suffering along the path to redemption.

We yearn for the Messiah, the son of David, but the time for his arrival is not yet here. We are still on the road to redemption, the stage of history represented by David. David’s life was tumultuous, and so is ours. Just as David experienced highs and lows, joyous miracles and great tragedy, so do the people of Israel today. We are David.

David only wrote one book – the Book of Psalms. Psalms is not a classical book of scholarship. Reading Psalms, we do not experience the same clarity that we have when reading Solomon’s books of wisdom. It is an altogether different kind of book – a book of song.

In our generation, as we grope our way through pain and darkness, when we have not yet reached the light of redemption, Solomon’s books of wisdom do not speak to us. When whole families are slaughtered, when children are tortured and massacred, there is no clarity nor any hope of intellectual understanding. Like David, whose parents and brothers were slaughtered by the king of Moab, we are grappling with the slaughter of our own family. At a moment like this, the only book that can help us is the Book of Psalms, a book of song.

Holy song, like the poetry of Ishay Ribo, does not address our minds, which cannot comprehend the pain and evil we are facing. Authentic song speaks to our souls, to the holy fire that burns deep within us. It is no accident that in Hebrew, the words “song” (shirah) and “prayer” (tefillah) share the same numerical equivalent, for ultimately they are one and the same. A true song is a prayer to God, an expression not of the mind but of the heart.

Now is not the time for profound speeches nor the wisdom of Solomon. The day will come when we will understand why we had to suffer this way – but that day is not yet here. Now is the time for Ishay Ribo and the Psalms of David. Now is the time to sing.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where does my help come? My help comes from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365.

Rabbi Elie Mischel

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365. Before making Aliyah in 2021, he served as the Rabbi of Congregation Suburban Torah in Livingston, NJ. He also worked for several years as a corporate attorney at Day Pitney, LLP. Rabbi Mischel received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Mischel also holds a J.D. from the Cardozo School of Law and an M.A. in Modern Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He is also the editor of HaMizrachi Magazine.

Rabbi Elie Mischel

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365. Before making Aliyah in 2021, he served as the Rabbi of Congregation Suburban Torah in Livingston, NJ. He also worked for several years as a corporate attorney at Day Pitney, LLP. Rabbi Mischel received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Mischel also holds a J.D. from the Cardozo School of Law and an M.A. in Modern Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He is also the editor of HaMizrachi Magazine.

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