13 Elul 5776
by Eliana Tehila Holmes (aka Angela)
Before I began living a full Jewish life four years ago, I had always strongly connected spiritually to inner prayer and community prayer expressed through music. In the faith that I was originally raised in, singing was stilted and if there was a choir, they were ‘caged’ in a box sitting high above, completely separated from the congregants below. I was a member of the choir for many years. As I sat up in the ‘cage,’ I always felt like our singing should be completely inclusive. I always wondered if everyone in attendance was feeling the same connection that we, in the choir were experiencing.
When I began attending Shabbat services, I cried through the services for many months. Where did tears come from? I believe they come, and still do, from the collective voice we create as a community during services, in order to fulfill the commandment of observing Shabbat. They come from the feeling, as well as a belief, that what we do together is so much stronger than if we do it alone.
“You walk toward your Creator with gifts in pure empty hands.
The words are golden, their meaning is transparent, it’s as though
you are saying them for the first time.”
A few weeks ago I heard someone say, “Services are just a big song fest.” This statement drew me to reflect on the power of collective song. This time of reflection reminded me why one of my Hebrew names is Tehila. You can find more than one definition, but the one I chose to identify me as a Jew is “sing praise to G-d.” When I adopted this name, along with the name Eliana, it cemented my belief that the communal song lifts the energy of prayer among and between us, as well as binds us in a closer union to our Jewish identity and purpose.
“A peaceful Shabbat.
A peaceful and blessed Shabbat.
A song of ascents.”
Every service is an opportunity to blend our voices into one fabric of a rhythmic chant or song that leads us through the structure of our service. We are individually praising G-d, but collectively reinforcing our faith through the beautiful movement of musical reverberations, thereby creating communal prayer, which for me, feeds my soul with the energy that we create together.
“I seek pleasing melodies and thirst for songs, for my soul thirsts for You.”
Music feeds my soul. My community singing together, feeds my soul. It is with deep affection that I am grateful for the faith I share with my community and every opportunity we have to share ‘pleasing melodies.’