This week I had the opportunity to sit in on Mr. U.'s kindergarten music class. For 40 minutes I watched as our kindergarteners sang and danced with delight as Mr. U. led them through a series of dance movements, gross motor exercises, voice training, and rhythmic activities. The children followed his instruction with visible concentration, seriously focusing on the tasks set forth in front of them. The seriousness of the tasks, however, only added to the complete joy that permeated the class. Giggles and smiles filled the space as music uplifted our young learners.
Music worked similar magic in the Middle School Beit Midrash last night as mothers and daughters from grades 5-8 joined together to reflect on the past year and prepare for Yom Kippur. Part of the evening was spent in song, participants singing Hebrew and English standards about peace and blessings, God and goodness. In this instance, music transformed our group of girls and women into a sacred community; music touched our souls and enabled us to connect with each other.
These two experiences lent me insight into the parashah as I reviewed the following verse, "And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness for the children of Israel" (Devarim 31:19). With this commandment, God through Moshe instructs each and every person to write a Torah scroll for him or herself. God doesn't use the word scroll or book to describe the intended product; instead, God commands that we should each write "this song." The Torah as song is a powerful image. Music and song uplift us, speak to our souls, and revive our spirits. Music simultaneously motivates contemplation and action, thought and dance. In this sense, the metaphor works beautifully. Torah has the ability to uplift, motivate and awaken us. Torah thrusts us into deep reflection and contemplation and inspires us to act, to move, to perform acts of lovingkindness, mitzvot, and to share the music of Torah as God's ambassadors in the world.