Make Your Judaism Sing

Principle 5 for Being an Inspiring Parent

The fifth video discusses the role that music has in instilling a love of Judaism in your children.

How to be an inspiring Jewish parent, Rule Five. Rule Five I came across when I was sitting one day with the then-Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, and he told me a fascinating story about two Gedolai Hador, two great Torah Sages of the 19th century, one of whose children stayed firm and within the faith and became great Rabbis themselves, the other of whom, sadly, his children became disillusioned and left the fold.

And he said to me, the difference had to do with se’udah shlishit. The two Gedolim conducted se’udah shlishit completely differently. One of them gave a brilliant and very complex Dvar Torah; the other one sang zemirot and niggunim. He said, "Guess which one's children stayed within the faith?" It's not a tough one. The one that sang the music kept their children with it, he kept his children within the faith.

Never think that religion, that Judaism, is just cognitive. It's affective; it's not just a matter of the mind, it's a matter of the emotions, and music is the language of the emotions. And whatever happened to the music? For Heaven's sake, when the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea, Az yashir Moshe u’venai Yisrael, they sang a song. (Exodus 15:1) They didn't give speeches, they didn't sit and learn a Massechet, they sang a song. David HaMelech was the great singer of Israel and wrote the most immortal songs. Yes, he wrote the original "Hallelujah," that dear Leonard Cohen wrote about, “the secret chord that pleased the Lord.” Shlomo HaMelech wrote Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs. For Heaven's sake, let Judaism sing.

Think of this moment, almost the last moment of Moses' life. Here he is 119, 11 months and many days. He's within sight of the end of his life, and he has given 612 commands to Israel. You and I would probably, at the age of 119, after we've given 612 commands, call it a day; that's a pretty good career average. But Moshe Rabbeinu said no, there's one more command I have to give the Israelites. What was that command, the last of the 630? Ve’atah kitvu lachem et-haShirah hazot. (Deuteronomy 31:19) The mitzvah that each of us must write a Sefer Torah, or at least take part in the writing of a Sefer Torah. Af al pi, said the Rambam, shehinichu la’avot avotav Sefer Torah - Even though your parents have left, or your family has an heirloom, you've inherited one from your parents, it's not enough; you have to write one for yourself or take part in the writing of one. Just even one letter is enough for yourself.

What was Moshe Rabbeinu thinking? I'll tell you what I think he was thinking; he was thinking, "I'm about to leave this generation behind, and I want them to know one thing: Kinderlach, don't think it's enough that your parents or you receive the Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu. You have to take the Torah and make it new in every generation." And what did he call the Torah at that moment? He did not say Ve’atah kitvu lachem et-haTorah hazot He said Ve’atah kitvu lachem et-haShirah hazot - "Write this Song," not, "write this Book." What he meant was, if you want to hand on the Torah to your children so they will write a Sefer Torah and make it new for their generation, teach it as a song, not just a speech.

Speech of is the language of the mind; song is the language of the soul. And if we want to let Judaism live on in our children and across the generations, we have not just to say the words, we have to sing the song. We have not just to think the thoughts, we have to let Judaism sing. So make sure that yours is a home full of music, full of warmth, full of emotion, and that is Rule Five. Sing your Judaism, and it will sing for your children.

This video series, Inspired Parenting, consists of thirteen short videos of Rabbi Sacks discussing some of the ways we can be inspiring parents and really kindle the flame of Torah in our children.

We hope you will learn, as Rabbi Sacks did, from exploring these ideas.