This Shabbat, Jews from around the world will be reading from Parshat Beshallach. Part of the significance of the parsha is that there is a long standing custom to designate the Shabbat of Parshat Beshallach as "Shabbat Shirah" - the Shabbat of Song. This is the one Shabbat (in particular) in which we celebrate Jewish music....because that was exactly the way our ancestors celebrated after successfully crossing the Sea to safety from the Egyptians (as told in this week's portion).
Regarding the notion of celebrating through song...our rabbis once asked: why is it that singing was the default way that our ancestors utilized to praise God? They could have praised by making sacrificial offerings, or by organizing the biblical version of a charitable fundraising drive. But instead: they sang! Why?
Our rabbis teach us that they learned of the power of song by listening to the tweeting of the birds during their enslavement in Egypt. All day, every day...amidst the hard manual labor that our ancestors had to endure...they listened to the tweeting and the singing of the birds. And, on some level, that singing....that pure unadulterated praise of God gave the Israelites the hope that they needed to carry on in the midst of their labors. Thus Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov (20th century Poland and Israel) suggests that our ancestors' Song of the Sea was not just a praise to God - but also a tribute to the tweeting of the birds.
Given the importance that our tradition places on tweeting this Shabbat, it seemed like the logical time for me to finally get around to opening a Twitter account! I want to invite all who are interested to follow me @RabbiJBrown. Maybe this will be the week that you'll be motivated to join Twitter as well! Just click on www.twitter.com. I'll look forward to "meeting you" online.