Erev Shabbat Message from Rabbi Adam Feldman This Shabat is Shabbat Shirah because during our Torah

Posted by The Jewish Center on 01/19/2018

Dear Friends,
This past Monday, I attended the Princeton Community Interfaith Service celebrating the life and legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the First Baptist Church of Princeton. Every year, this service provides members of our community an opportunity to gather and highlight the great accomplishments of Dr. King and to consider how he would view issues in our country and in our world today. It was a special thrill this year to be at First Baptist because we all were able to enjoy the great music and spiritual style that they include in their worship.
When we gather in interfaith services, I think about God language and the various English words we use to refer to God. The local clergy and I have an understanding that we all will do our best to be as inclusive as we can when we speak about God - making sure to use terms that are acceptable to all of us.  At this service there was an occasional reference to Jesus by some of the newer Pastors in town and I notice that my older colleagues glance over at me when this happens. I try to shrug it off and wait for someone to speak to that new Pastor so that they know our philosophy going forward. I do not take it personally but I do hope that we can be mindful of how others view God. Part of me wishes that we Jews were as comfortable talking about God as some of our Gentile friends. Our tradition has many names for God, both in Hebrew and in English and I encourage people to more familiar with them and perhaps become more comfortable discussing them. A sixth-grade Religious School student and I had a conversation about just this topic this week when I mentioned to him that Jewish traditions says that there are 72 names for God but all of them describe the same One God.
As I sat in the church on Monday night I thought about the power of music in religious life and I was reminded that music can touch the heart in a much more powerful way than the spoken word. Music helps us express our inner feelings and can be a very strong connection to meet our spiritual needs. Singing together in worship can also help us connect to one another, as we listen to other voices surrounding us and strive to stay together with them. I love to sing the melodies from our worship service. Some of them take me back to critical moments in my life when I first became comfortable in the synagogue and others take me to powerful experiences for us as a congregation today. I find it very moving when our Hazzan leads us in song, when we are all inspired to sing together and to lift each other up as we lift up our voices together. At times, we like to sing the Hebrew words of our Siddur or our Torah as we connect to each other and to the ancient times when these texts were written. At other times, we like to sing in English so that we can be more familiar with the words and their true meaning.
In many religious traditions, the worship experience ends in song. Many of us love the closing hymn or the closing song of our service and I encourage people to study the words so that we are more familiar with what we are singing. On Monday night, we ended with a song that is often associated with the Civil Rights Movement but can also inspire us in other aspects of our contemporary lives. The song is "We Shall Overcome" and the words are below. I hope that today we can find these words to be as powerful and inspirational as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the other civil rights leaders did, as we face our own challenges, personally and as a country.  I pray that the memory of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will always be a blessing and that our greater Princeton Community will continue to come together to celebrate his life and legacy and also to honor one another.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adam Feldman
We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.
We are not afraid, we are not afraid,
We are not afraid today;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We are not afraid today.
We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We'll walk hand in hand someday.

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall live in peace someday.