William Hamilton

That Secret Melody Humming Inside Us

A friend made an observation this week about goals. “They want to instill despair. But our goals are different. We want to treasure the integrity of being Jewish.”

I love this notion. The integrity of being Jewish embraces our vocation to advance human flourishing and betterment. It invites us to go with-the-grain of our strengths, to recover that secret melody humming inside us each and every Shabbat. 

And there’s rarely been a Shabbat when it has mattered more than this one, when then attacks on our Nation-State, our institutions, and our dignity, were compounded by the devastating news of the recovery of the murdered bodies of three beloved souls of the House of Israel, Shani (23), Amit (28), and Itzik (58), who had been abducted from the Nova Festival on October 7th. Our hearts break. Again.

Shabbat is the beating-heart of this week’s portion of Torah. Every Festival gets renamed for Shabbat. The text brings this to our attention by repeating the “On the Sabbath Day, On the Sabbath Day” (Lev. 24:8). It’s the Torah’s repetitive way of conveying emphasis, as in “Abraham, Abraham” and “Jacob, Jacob” (Gen. 22:11; 46:2). The melody for the first “On the Sabbath Day,” is elevating and intense. It responds to our shouldering a long, heavy week, as we enter Shabbat. Friday night and Saturday morning singing – whether in synagogue or around our dining tables – is meant to offset those burdens, this week so shattering by today’s terrible news.   

The melody for the second “On the Sabbath Day” is restful, more quieting. Ordinarily restorative. This week, seeking solace. 

We’ll be hosting Daniel Vaknine, a DJ and survivor of the Nova Festival, this Shabbat at 12:50 pm following Kiddush in the Sanctuary. He has begun to tell his story and the story of those who survived the music festival. He’ll seek to honor the memories of Shani, Amit, and Itzik, among the many other’s we lost that day and who remain in captivity. 

As we grieve, as we struggle to honor their memories, and to stay safe and strong, may we ways to enable siege to give way to song, as we move toward a new week, poised to keep our People’s promise. Am Yisrael Chai.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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