Scream: Sh'mot 5774 by Cantor Lipp

Tue, 12/31/2013 - 8:55am -- AJ Blog

Whenever I hear someone sing Shir LaShalom by  Yaakov Rotblit with melody Yair Rosenblum, I think about the way it has become an Israeli folk song, a peace anthem if you will. You can still see the picture of the text stained with the blood of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. I was thinking about it when I was reading the portion of Shmot this week. After centuries of slavery, the Israelites scream to God and God remembers them. Well, not remembers in the sense of forgotten according to most commentators. Meam Loez, the 18th century Ladino commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Yaakov Culi, says that God pays attention because we screamed. 

He notes that rabbinically mandated davvening of the Amidah, the standing prayer, instructs us to pray only so loud that we can hear ourselves, imitating Hannah who prayed for a child and was granted the prophet Samuel as a reward.

One of my pet peeves is that specifically when people say the amidah they feel they have to start making sure everyone knows where they are. It’s the one part of the davvening where that is NOT appropriate.  Shir LaShalom is pretty explicit in its condemnation of our general Amidah practice.  

Thus just sing a song for peace,

            Don’t whisper your prayers

Thus just sing a song of peace,

            In a great scream!

If you’ve never heard the original version of Shir laShalom, you might want to. It was composed in the same year as Hair and is as revolutionary, especially when you consider it was first sung in an Army Ensemble in Israel.  We should be thankful that our ‘screaming’ for peace is from a position of relative strength as opposed to the prayers we have had to scream for much of our history, from Egyptian slavery all the way through the Holocaust.

We’d still appreciate an answer.


Shabbat Shalom. 

David Lipp