Sing a New Song: In Memory of Yaron Chitiz hy”d

BY RABBI DORON AND GILA CHITIZ

One of the most anticipated moments during megillah reading is hearing the reader rattle off all of the ten sons of Haman in one breath. The Gemara calls this list a shira, a song, because when one looks at the list in the actual megillah’s parchment, it resembles “a half brick over a half brick” structure with two columns on either side. The Gemara explains that this particular type of structure is relatively unstable and prone to toppling and suggests that this style was chosen purposefully for the list of Haman’s sons, to hint that “they should never rise from their downfall” (Megillah 16b).

Rabbi Yaakov Medan, Rosh Yeshivat Har Etzion, says that this song, as well as all the rest of the songs we find in Tanach, is meant to express gratitude for winning a war. The Song of the Sea, Shirat Hayam (Shemot 15), celebrates the victory over the Egyptians, the Song of the Well (Bamidbar 21) commemorates the victory over Sichon and Og, and the Song of David (Shmuel II 22) celebrates David’s victories in the many battles with his enemies. Similarly, the song of Devorah (Shoftim 5), and the song of the kings of Canaan (Yehoshua 12) are victorious in nature as well.

These aforementioned songs acknowledge G-d’s hand in their victory, together with the efforts of the soldiers who risked their lives. In many cases, the singers of these songs are women, who were the first to sing, rejoice, and play musical instruments after a war, as Miriam and Devorah did after the splitting of the sea and the victory over Sisera. When the warriors would return from battle it was customary for the women to welcome them in song, as in the story of David (Shmuel I 18:7) and the tragic case of Yiftach’s daughter (Shoftim 1:34).

It seems that women, who generally did not participate in the battle itself, assumed the role of singing praise to G-d, both during the war and after they emerged victorious. 

Since the beginning of our current war, which began on Simchat Torah, we have witnessed an upsurge of singing, both at the frontlines and at home. Soldiers are singing, families are singing, and music is connecting people to one another and to Heaven.

Yaron Chitiz hy”d, our brother who fell in battle in Gaza on December 26th, returned home for a visit only once during the war, for what turned out to be his final Shabbat in this world. During a very lively Friday night dinner full of talking and interesting discussions, Yaron banged on the table and said: “There’s no chance that in Gaza they sing more zemirot Shabbat than here.” This was our call to action, and we, too, began to sing – a powerful and memorable experience of the entire family together again, working our way through the bencher, song after song, well into the night. 

Song allows us to feel connected with our soldiers on the battlefield, joining them spiritually while they fight the battles on our behalf so that we can live in our homeland. Music has the ability to connect, to express and capture what words cannot, to transcend to other dimensions. Song enables us to powerfully connect with our precious soldiers on the front lines, and with Jews across the globe, who are also singing at their Shabbat tables. 

At the beginning of the megillah we read: “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine” (Esther 1:10). The Gemara asks: “Is that to say that until now his heart was not merry with wine? Did it take seven days for him to achieve merriment? Rava said: The seventh day was Shabbat, when the difference between the Jewish people and the gentiles is most apparent. On Shabbat, when the Jewish people eat and drink, they begin by occupying themselves with words of Torah and song of praise for G-d” (Megillah 12b).

Since Yaron’s death, just three days after that memorable Shabbat, singing at the Shabbat table has become an even more moving experience for us and for thousands of others. We receive such heartwarming and comforting messages from so many people around the world who share with us that they sing extra zemirot around their Shabbat table in memory of Yaron. In his death, he managed to inspire so many households to strengthen their bonds with Hashem and each other through song every Shabbat. 

There is a recurring theme in many of the zemirot we sing on Shabbat. Many of them describe the yearning to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash. Though one might think we yearn for the Mikdash in order to bring sacrifices or participate in aliyah la’regel, the reason given in the zemirot for our yearning for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash is so that we will be able to sing to Hashem:

“יִבָּנֶה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, עִיר צִיּוֹן תְּמַלֵּא, וְשָׁם נָשִׁיר שִׁיר חָדָשׁ”

“May the Temple be rebuilt, Zion’s city full again, and there we shall sing a new song” (Tzur Mishelo)

“לְמַקְדְּשָׁךְ תּוּב וּלְקוֹדֶשׁ קוּדְשִׁין אֲתַר דִּי בֵיהּ יִחְדוּן רוּחִין וְנַפְשִׁין וִיזַמְּרוּן לָךְ שִׁירִין וְרַחְשִׁין”

“Return to Your Temple and to the Holy of Holies, a place where souls can rejoice and sing songs and praise” (Ya Ribon)

Just as the women living in the time of Tanach led the people in song, it is our job – those of us who are not fighting on the front lines – to lead our people in song today. Together with our soldiers, let us sing like Yaron, and increase song in our lives and at our Shabbat tables. Through this we connect with Jews throughout our using zemirot Shabbat to connect with each other, our brave soldiers, and Hashem in these trying times. We pray that we also connect with the Jews of the future (and may we all be included), who will merit to sing zemirot in the Beit HaMikdash

The list of the sons of Haman in Megillat Esther can be read as a victorious song, when G-d turned Haman’s war of extermination against the Jews upon Haman and his own family in the aftermath of the war led by Haman’s sons to exterminate the Jews. “On the day that the Jews’ enemies looked forward to ruling over them, it was reversed, the Jews should rule over their enemies” (Esther 9:1).

Through our zemirot may we all merit to fill our homes with holiness, spirituality, shalom bayit, and a connection with all of Am Yisrael – past, present, and future. May we soon sing a song of victory over our enemies in our day as we did in the past, and may we soon experience light and rejoicing: “לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשֹׂן וִיקָר, The Jews had light and joy, and gladness and honor” (Esther 8:16).

 

Rabbi Doron Chitiz is the secondary school rabbi of King Solomon School in Hakfar Hayarok and is the educational director of Kehillat Shivtei Yisrael in Ra’anana. He is a worldwide sought-after teacher, lecturer and musician. Gila Chitiz is a project manager at Koren Publishers. She has degrees in Jewish studies and Tanach and is currently pursuing her MBA. She has learned and taught in midrashot around Israel. Rabbi Doron and Gila are graduates of Mizrachi’s Shalhevet program and were shlichim in Johannesburg, South Africa from 2019-2021.

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