Thursday, March 28, 2013

Singing and Passover

At our communal seder, someone asked how all the songs that we sing at the end, like Chad Gadya, ended up there. How are they attached to Passover? The real answer is, that they really aren't so attached. Most of them were popular or based on popular tunes from throughout Jewish history, and people enjoyed singing them. Eventually they became part of the seder and to the extant that there are holiday specific reasons why we sing them on Passover, those were sort of "reverse-engineered" you might say. But it got me thinking, that Passover is a holiday of songs. We go out of our way to add all the concluding songs even though we don't exactly "need" them to tell the story. Of course the seder includes the Hallel service which involves a lot of singing. We chant Shir ha-Shirim, the Song of Songs, on Saturday in synagogue. We recall the events tradition tells us took place then when on the seventh day (Monday) we recite Shirat ha-Yam, the Song at the Sea, when the Red Sea parted. I think the reason why Passover has so much singing associated with it is suggested by the injunction in the seder to begin in a lowly state and in celebration. That essential to the experience of redemption from slavery, from the narrow straits of bondage in Egypt, is rising from a lowly place to one of joy, of freedom. Throughout the holiday, therefore, we sing, for song more than anything else can lift a person the way it lifted the Jewish nation at the far banks of the Red Sea. When we are in a low place in our lives, let us find the song that is there even without melody and without words, the song of gratitude to God for creation, that can lift up and inspire us at any time. Chag Sameach, Rabbi Benson

No comments:

Post a Comment