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Lessons from Israel’s Music (Achrei Mot-Kedoshim – 04/29/23)

Lessons from Israel’s Music

Despite the dire predictions of division and discord, this year’s Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) in Israel was celebrated with great unity and enthusiasm, perhaps even more so than in the past. When we concluded our Musical Yom HaAtzmaut service this past Friday night, I think I understood the reason why.

A country’s music says a lot about itself. Looking at America’s (cross-cultural) ballads, we notice repeating themes.

Our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, praises victory, freedom, and bravery.

America the Beautiful recognizes the wonderful blessings of our country and asks for God’s grace.

Home On the Range praises our heartland and honors the individual who appreciates its blessings.

God Bless America likewise recognizes our country’s beauty and requests God’s blessings.

The Marine’s Hymn is devoted to freedom, sacrifice, and bravery.

Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA rallies patriots to love and be proud of our country.

These songs recognize the beauty of our land, our pride in our country, and vaunt freedom, individuality, and bravery.

In contrast, Israel’s famous songs embrace joy, unity, perseverance, and hope.

Songs like Mayim, Mayim, Hava Nagilah, and Tzena Tzena are inherently joyous songs created for dancing together in large groups.

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem, Hinei Mah Tov, and Am Yisrael Chai foment togetherness.

Other songs we sang Friday night are about gratitude and hope:

Jerusalem of Gold by Naomi Shemer recognizes the beauty of the city and its surroundings, and thanks God for the return of Jerusalem after the 6-Day War.

Halleluya, the 1979 Eurovision Song Festival winner, thanks God with an appreciation for today and hope for tomorrow:

Hallelujah for everything,

yesterday and tomorrow

Hallelujah, hand in hand

and sing in one heart – Hallelujah

Al Kol Eleh recognizes that in the growing process, we must endure hardship. The song thanks God for that as well:

Every bee that brings the honey

Needs a sting to be complete

And we all must learn to taste the bitter with the sweet.

Don’t uproot what has been planted

So our bounty may increase

Let our dearest wish be granted:

Bring us peace, oh bring us peace.

For the sake of all these things, Lord,

Let your mercy be complete

Bless the sting and bless the honey

Bless the bitter and the sweet.

BaShanah HaBa’ah predicts the most beautiful tomorrow:

Soon the day will arrive

When we will be together

And no longer will people live in fear

And the children will smile

Without wondering whether

On that day, dark new clouds will appear.

You will see, you will see

O, how good it will be

In the year, in the year just ahead.

We could have also included Arik Einstein’s famous song, Ani V’Ata, which embodies the ultimate idealism:

You and I, we’ll change the world

you and I, by then, all will follow

Others have said it before me, but it

doesn’t matter; you and I, we’ll change the world.

You and I will try from the beginning

it will be tough for us, but no matter, it’s not too bad!

Others have said it before me, but it

doesn’t matter; you and I, we’ll change the world.

On Yom HaAtztmaut, I learned that Israel is the 11th happiest country in the world. Based on their music, I’m not surprised. Despite the numerous challenges of living in Israel, Israelis have maintained optimism, preserved their idealism, and focused on happiness. Now, when challenges have arisen to democracy in the land, hundreds of thousands are rallying daily to create their ideal country.

Perhaps, having HaTikvah, The Hope, as their national anthem reminds them daily to hope for a country where they can live truly happy and free.

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