Jews with Views – Purim Edition 5784

Which song have you most connected with during the war?

BY SHAI ABRAMSON

A few days after the war began, Chanan Ben Ari released a song called Moledet. It manages to capture so much that we are feeling today. The final verses bring me to tears each time: “You are unique and the only one, you will always be my homeland. Even on the edge of the abyss, even in Gehenom, you are Gan Eden.” This is our story in this Land. It will always be our homeland; we are deeply connected to this place. There has been such sadness and pain in the last few months, but even in the midst of hell our homeland is still Gan Eden. I have found myself singing it to myself at all points of the emotional rollercoaster of the last few months – as I returned home from shiva calls and funerals, and also as I returned from inspiring moments, like weddings of soldiers in uniform. 

I also connect deeply to the Tefillah for Chayalei Tzahal, the Prayer for the Soldiers of the IDF, which is so unique and speaks deeply to us now. I was asked to sing it in the Knesset on Tu BiShvat, the Knesset’s 75th birthday, and it was so moving – we associate the Knesset as a place of division, but praying for the welfare of our soldiers is something that unites us all.

Shai Abramson was appointed Chief Cantor of the Israel Defense Forces in 2008. Abramson serves as the representative cantor of the State of Israel, and participates in this capacity in formal state occasions and ceremonies.

BY SHERRI MANDELL

I appreciate the simplicity and power of the song “Am Yisrael Chai.” This song symbolizes the grit, determination, love, passion, resilience, steadfastness, will, persistence, and – most importantly – the eternity of the Jewish people. These three words summarize the mission of the Jewish people.

Am – be a nation, a holy nation, the nation of Israel. No matter how many people hate you and want to destroy you, insist on the holiness of your nation and mission.  

Yisrael – after fleeing from Esav and fighting with the angel of Esav, Jacob is left alone and wounded. His name is changed to Yisrael, he who struggles with G-d and with man and prevails. Notice that Jacob is left alone – he is in solitude – but he prevails. We, as the Jewish people, will always be a singular nation and we will struggle, even in our own country – but we will be victorious. That is the promise that G-d gave us, and that is our deepest faith.

Chai – the vitality of this nation is astonishing. The whole nation has come alive to fight our enemy. High-tech firms in Tel Aviv dedicated their staff to helping the survivors of October 7, grandmothers are driving down south to pick fruit, hundreds of soldiers abroad on vacation flew home to fight. Instead of walking away or cowering in fear, we are all embracing our nation.

We know how to choose life and to live life in the fullest way. Because we are here not only for ourselves, but for the whole nation. And for eternity.

Sherri Mandell is a certified pastoral counselor , and is the co-founder of the Koby Mandell Foundation which runs healing groups and camps for bereaved families and children. Her latest book is “The Kabbalah of Writing: Mystical Practices for Creativity and Inspiration.” She received a National Jewish Book Award in 2004 for her spiritual memoir, “The Blessing of a Broken Heart.” 

BY SHIM CRAIMER

The song that has inspired me in these most trying of times is Chanan Ben Ari’s haunting “Shevurei Lev.” One of Chanan’s many talents is to write melodies that really connect to his lyrics. The power of these words can only truly be understood if they are accompanied by a soulful passionate melody. Each melodic line matches perfectly with the poetic lyric. 

This song provides us with the means to cry out to Hashem, to show Him that we know He is in charge. Only He knows everything we are feeling. Only He has the means to pardon and forgive, to embrace us and ensure that we will never give up. Only He has the power to heal our broken hearts and renew lives. And these are the feelings that make this song so special. Chanan gives us the magic of musical expression to not only allow us to grieve during such turmoil in our beloved homeland, but to also give ourselves hope. We cry to Him, but we also know Hashem has the power to mend our broken hearts.

Shim Craimer was born in London and studied music at the Royal Academy of Music. Shim spent 15 years in New York as the Chazzan of the Riverdale Jewish Center and continues to return there on a regular basis. Shim travels the world as a Ba’al Tefillah and performs in concerts, weddings and other events with many Jewish orchestras and ensembles. He has released a number of albums and videos and continues to produce new material every year.

BY  RICKA RAZEL

This war made me realize the real incredible impact of music – both the comfort it brings and how it helps us connect to our emotions.

On October 7th, we all experienced a state of shock. That night I was supposed to perform at a big dance concert (Hakafot Shniyot), but instead of the hakafot we got hatkafot – bomb attacks. Instead of performing, I sat with Yael Kalifa in my house and together we sang “Acheinu,” an ancient prayer that all of a sudden took on a new, real, and emotional meaning.

The song begins with: “Our brothers, the family of Israel, who are in danger and bondage, whether on land or at sea,” and continues with a prayer for salvation. We were wordless on that horrible day and this song expressed exactly what we were feeling at that moment. The song became a savior.

In the following weeks, I played music for families evacuated from their homes and for injured soldiers. Each time we sang “Acheinu,” I felt the power of unity, of coming together with song, hope, and a shared sense of prayer. 

Ricka Razel began her performing career in a family band as a teenager. Decades later, the now religiously observant mother-of-eight has returned to the stage – now playing only for female audiences. Ricka is currently recording a new duet together with Nina, of the musical duo Yonina.

BY RABBI YOSSI GOLDIN

The songs that have given me the most strength during these challenging months have been two songs that my two-year-old son, Yaacov, came home singing a few weeks after the war began. The first song is called אֲנַחְנוּ לֹא מְפַחֲדִים, which describes Am Yisrael’s confidence that is based in ה’ אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ ה’ אֶחָד – we know that Hashem is with us and will protect us. The second song is called אַל תִּירָא יִשְׂרָאֵל אַל תִּירָא, which focuses on another aspect of our confidence – namely that we as a nation are as strong as as lion, and therefore we have the ability to protect ourselves and defeat the enemy. These two songs have become a staple in our home each Shabbat.

To me, the combination of both songs speaks to the crucial balance we must have as a nation during a time of war. On the one hand, we must exude a confidence of spirit and a trust in the strength of our army to defeat those who want to destroy us. On the other hand, we must always remember that ultimately our success in this war depends on Hashem – and we must continue to pray that He guide us to a complete victory.

What gives me the greatest strength is the symbolism of being taught these two songs by my toddler child – the comfort in knowing that despite the challenging times we live in and despite all the pain and fear, my children are growing up with a deep sense of conviction and passion for the Jewish nation and what we stand for, from my oldest in high school to my youngest in gan.

Rabbi Yossi Goldin is Director of Young Israel in Israel, Branch Coordinator for NCYI, and heads the Shuls Department at World Mizrachi. He is also Israel Immersion Coordinator and Placement Advisor for YU/RIETS in Israel

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