Shiru L’Adonai Shir Chadash – Sing Unto the Eternal A New Song

“Music makes pictures and often tells stories, all of it magic, all of it true.” (John Denver)

Music has been an integral part of my life since I was very young. My paternal grandmother was a concert pianist. She met my grandfather, who was a cellist, when they were both playing in the same quartet.

My father inherited his parents’ love of music and talent. Like his father, he too played the cello. And he also had perfect pitch. While we were young, my dad would sing to us on car rides, teaching us all of Tom Leher’s songs that he learned as a camp counselor (not always appropriate for young children, e.g. – “The Old Dope Peddler”). He introduced us to Alan Sherman’s “Peter and the Commissar” with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. He was always singing.

Album cover, Allan Sherman, Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops: Peter and the Commissar
Album cover – Allan Sherman, Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops: Peter and the Commissar

My mother played first violin in the Rhode Island Youth Symphony Orchestra while she was in High School. She too was multi-talented. She played piano, accordion, recorder, and a few other instruments. She was a classical music aficionado. And she taught music at our Hebrew Day school.

I was thrilled when I attended Shabbat services at my new congregation this past July and saw that everyone – of all ages – took rhythm instruments to enhance the musical experience of the service.

Music has played an important role in our Jewish worship experience since biblical times. From the portable mishkan – Tabernacle (or sanctuary) in the wilderness to the Temple in Jerusalem, music was used as a way to praise and glorify God.

King David made sure that the musicians and choirs were paid salaries, furnished with homes and well taken care of. He understood that a world without music was a world without color, a world without joy, a world without warmth and a world without spirit.

Psalm 150, verses 3-6 states:

Praise the Eternal with blasts of the shofar. Praise the Eternal with harp and lyre. Praise the Eternal with timbral and dance. Praise the Eternal with lute and pipe. Praise the Eternal resounding with cymbals. Praise the Eternal with loud crashing cymbals.

 My friend Mattan Klein has made it his life’s work to “praise the Eternal” with all different types of music. His father, Dr. Rabbi Michael Klein, z”l, was the Dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem campus while I was a first year rabbinic student.

While his father immersed himself in the ancient texts of our people, Mattan’s entire life is dedicated to bringing those texts to life through the beauty of music. He is the Ensemble Instructor at a high school for the arts in Israel, he is the Band Leader for three separate groups: 4 Flute Flight, Seeds of Sun and Mattan Klein Quintet. Like King David, Mattan plays music in both the secular and religious arenas. He played a beautiful flute tribute at Ariel Sharon’s funeral last year.

Perhaps what I find most inspirational about his work, is how he influences and inspires others, especially the next generation. Two years ago, his then-eight-year-old daughter Avigail was at one of her father’s performances and drew the following picture afterward:

Avigail Klein's view of her father's band "Seeds of Sun" performing
Avigail Klein’s view of her father’s band “Seeds of Sun” performing

Avigail placed herself playing flute with the band in the bottom right-hand corner. This was her dream: to play flute in her father’s band, surrounded by beautiful music! She just started taking flute lessons a few weeks ago. What she envisioned two years ago can soon be sustained and fulfilled.

To me, Abigail’s musical notes surrounding each and every musician not only symbolize the music they are playing. They symbolize an important lesson for each of us: when each of us joins together to “play our own instrument” in concert with others, we create a beautiful symphony. When we join our voices together, no matter if we are playing actual music, working together on behalf of social justice or some other common goal, we become bathed in music and beauty. It doesn’t matter what instrument we play, what note we sing, or even if we just listen.

Each of us has a song to sing. Each of us has the ability to hear the song of others around us. Shiru l’Adonai shir chadash – sing unto the Eternal a new song. Shiru l’Adonai kol ha-aretz – sing unto the Eternal all the earth. (Psalm 96:1).

(A video sample of Mattan Klein playing some of his beautiful music):


Ariel Sharon – Lion of God

Ariel Sharon. His name means “Lion of God” (in) the “Plains of Sharon.” (the northern half of the coastal plain of Israel)

Could there be a more appropriate name for this man who devoted his life to his country with courage, passion, and zeal?

All week long, we have been reading what historians, analysts, biographers, friends and foes have to say about this larger-than-life man. Whether one loved him, hated him or wavered back-and-forth, Ariel Sharon was one of the few people who had the most significant impact – positive and negative – on Israel over the course of modern history.

I will leave the political analysis and discussion to those who are more expert than I. Sharon’s death, after eight years in a coma following a stroke, will provoke a great deal of reflection and commentary.

For me, it brings to mind the words of our patriarch Jacob at the end of the book of Breishit, Genesis. As Jacob prepares to die, he blesses all his children. But he bestows upon his fourth son, Judah, a blessing that results in the tribe of Judah leading all the others. And according to tradition, King David and the royal line descend from the Tribe of Judah.

“You O Judah, your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; your father’s sons shall bow low to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp. (gur ar-yeh Y’hudah); On prey, my son, have you grown. He crouches, lies down like a lion, like the king of beast who dare rouse him? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet; So that tribute shall come to him..and the homage of peoples be his.” (Genesis 49: 8-10)

The symbol of the Tribe of Judah, is the lion. We often see the Lions of Judah depicted artistically holding up the tablets of the covenant.

We want the strength of the lion to guard our pact with God. We want the fearlessness of the lion to keep away our enemies. We want that Ari-El, that Lion of God to keep us safe from all harm. If the lion can do the fighting for us, then we can be free to live our lives as we desire: in peace, freedom and security.

Lions of Judah
Lions of Judah

Ariel Sharon is the fulfillment of Jacob’s blessing. He was that “Gur Ar-yeh Y’hudah” that “lion’s whelp” who had the courage, tenacity and fierce character to fight on behalf of his country. He was not afraid to do what had to be done. He truly was that Lion of God, the “Ari-El” for whom he was named. And just as lion’s are also ruthless and cunning, at times, so was Sharon. Leaving a brutal and bloody trail behind.

But just as Jacob blessed Judah with the words “the sceptre shall not depart from Judah”, Sharon was able to fight his way back from the battle field, from his defeats, to lead his people. The wreckage of the lion’s prey, was left behind as he sought to strengthen his people. The name “Sharon” can also depict a “rose” from the Valley of the Sharon. Ariel Sharon could be an ironic contrast of “lion” with the “rose of the Valley of the Sharon”: strong and beautiful, fighter and builder, courageous and impulsive.

Jacob’s blessing ends: “So that tribute shall come to him..and the homage of the peoples be his”, so too, do we see the praise and the homage coming to Sharon this week after his death.

Zichrono livracha – may his memory be for a blessing.


My friend, Mattan Klein, flutist extra-ordinaire, and Director of Seeds of Sun, plays flute in this moving musical tribute at Ariel Sharon’s funeral.

Click below for:

Reform Movement Statement on The Death of Ariel Sharon