Beauty has never been defeated. Beauty is the physical manifestation of love. Love is the emotional manifestation of holiness. Holiness is the spiritual manifestation of the Divine. There have been times when beauty has been assaulted, attacked, wounded, crushed, abandoned, exiled, and left for dead. Beauty always rises, love wins, holiness returns, and God continues to yearn for us to heal the world.
Realistic we must be, without losing faith. The world’s democracies are in crisis. The darkness of human against human seems to be closing in. Once again, beauty and love are being challenged by accusation and fear. The strength of our Israeli democratic institutions are being tested by the very people we elected to run our government.
I stand with those who demonstrate against the judicial overhaul, recognizing that beneath the disputes are long-time class inequities and broken social contracts. I fear for the State, which means I fear for us, all of the residents and citizens of Israel.
Now comes Rosh Chodeh Elul. On Thursday and Friday we will, once again, sing Hallel, praises to God. We will call forth the beauty of God’s love for us and our desire to be worthy of holiness and the Divine. We will ask God to save us.
How can we rejoice before God in the face of this deep fear, pain, and sorrow for the State of Israel? This Elul, the traditional Hallel may need a more layered and nuanced set of emotions.
In the heart of the pandemic, I asked a similar question as Passover approached, during which Hallel is also recited. How can we sing Hallel with a full heart at socially distanced Seders? I crafted an alternative called “Hallel in a Minor Key,” inviting singer songwriter Sue Horowitz to compose music for the opening poem. Here’s a taste:
We sing praises in a minor key,
The key of heartbreak,
With tropes of lamentation,
But still praises,
For beauty has not been lost
And hope has not been defeated,
And love still shines,
A beacon of tomorrow.
הַלְלוּיָהּ הַלְלוּ עַבְדֵי ה’, הַלְלוּ אֶת־שֵׁם ה’׃
Hal’luyah hal’lu avdei Adonai, hal’lu et shem Adonai.
Hallelujah. O servants of Adonai give praise; praise the name of Adonai. (Psalm 113:1)
Partnering with the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Sue and I offer the liturgy and music to you and synagogues around the world as a thank-you gift to the congregations, rabbis, cantors, and spiritual leaders who have used our work, just as we did during COVID.
Download a PDF of the full liturgy and the sheet music from my website here, where you can also hear a recording of Sue singing the opening song. Read more about the spiritual and musical influences behind this liturgy in our original RavBlog post, “Hallel in a Minor Key.”
We offer this liturgy in answer to a new question: How do we recite Hallel in fear for the future of the State of Israel? Pieces of it can be used to supplement the traditional Hallel, or it can be used as a complete alternative Hallel. Every Psalm in the traditional Hallel is reflected somewhere in this liturgy.
The fight for the democratic character of Israel continues. But beauty has not been lost, and love has not been defeated. Praise to the Holy One, Maker of heaven and earth. Please, God, save us.