This weekend is Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of return, which falls between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.
Our Torah reading is near the very end of Deuteronomy. Moses is about to die. He gathers the people and in their presence tells Joshua, “Be strong and resolute, for it is you who shall go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their fathers… God will be with you; God will not fail you or forsake you. Fear not and be not dismayed.” (Deut. 31:7-8).
This is the mark of a true leader. Moses makes sure everyone knows who will be their next leader and that he approves of him. He is setting Joshua up for success, creating a smooth transition of leadership.
And then God tells Moses to write a song.
I love this. I’m not the only one; it prompted Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to write:
Judaism is a religion of words, and yet whenever the language of Judaism aspires to the spiritual it modulates into song, as if the words themselves sought escape from the gravitational pull of finite meanings. Music speaks to something deeper than the mind. If we are to make Torah new in every generation we have to find ways of singing its song a new way. The words never change, but the music does.
By singing the song that is Torah, we can reclaim our relationship with God, bring God back into our hearts, learn to be the kind of people we want to be. In other words, we can repent and return, and God will be there for us. The choice is ours.
I choose to sing. Every Friday night we sing the 96th Psalm, the first line of which is: Shiru L’Adonai shir hadash, Sing out to God a new song. We sing this new song week after week, and yet it remains fresh and new.
As we enter into the new year, may our mouths be filled with song and may our souls soar ever higher. May we inscribe ourselves for a good year, a year of hope, a year of joy.