Jewish Journal

Debbie Friedman

by Emily Stern

January 11, 2011 | 12:37 pm

“And the women dancing with their timbrels follow Miriam as she sang a song, Sing a song to the One whom we’ve exalted! Miriam and the women dance and dance the whole night long.” (Miriam’s Song, Debbie Friedman, From Beshallach 15.20)

Debbie Friedman has certainly perpetuated a kind of feminine knowing, devotion, and power that has walked with us since our revelation, and before.

The entire torah—torah she’bal peh—was clear to Moshe. Every single moment of realization, every future discovery that would be made, every layer that would be decoded, and realized in years to come, including now and your discoveries tomorrow, are said to have been fully realized in this moment. And how any torah discovery that is made today was foreseen as its revelation. It’s common to hear the concept that Israel is in fact waiting for your torah, the torah only you can bring.
And with the coming of these times, where jews are returning and returning and returning, calling themselves a Baal Tsuvah, it seems that, Be’zerat Hashem, this is something that will eventually gift our nation.

“Sing unto Gd, sing a new song, oh sing, praises to Gd, give thanks to Him with a song, Oh sing praises unto the Lord thy Gd. Rejoice with the Lord, all yee Righetous” (Sing Unto Gd, Debbie Friedman)


Between this week’s Torah and Haftoarah readings, Moshe, Miriam and Devorah Hanavia with Barak sing songs in their joy with community.
I hope that this shabbat, I find a way to sing Debbie Friedman’s “Women of the Well.”

In Moshe’s saying “Az Yashir” (the Az possibly rendering the future into the past) and “Ashira” (I will sing), we have the past of the splitting of the sea, and the future conquests covered. Could be that he is also referencing Miriam’s song, just one perek later? Miriam’s song, is the song of the present “Sheroo,” and also includes a far more distant past, an ancient past where Miriam was prophesizing to her parents as “Aaron’s sister”.  some say the prophecy is about Moshe, but others about Love, the need to keep love alive, in order to bring about change. (i.e. moshe’s birth)

Just in hearing the torah revealed through her songs, Debbie Friedman “found a way to make (her) life a blessing” as she so beautifully prays for in her Misheberach, and to “bless Gd’s name” (Sing Unto Gd.)  Just the structure of the first three notes of her Shema embody the essence of the blessing we make two to three times a day. Beginning low, raising it up, and ending just a little bit higher than we began, she taught through her music, the presence of the Divine.

“The old shall dream dreams and the youth shall see visions, and our hopes shall rise up to the sky! we must live for today, we must build for tomorrow. Give us time, give us strength, give us life!” (The Youth Shall See Visions, Debbie Friedman)

I am remembering looking at a piece of sheet music to a song I love singing. Probably “not by might, not by power, but by spirit alone shall we all live in peace!” She continues “Their tears may fall but we’ll hear them call, and another song will rise” This was over ten years ago,  I see her name for the first time, and I connect the dots. It dawns on me just how many songs my temple’s teen and junior choir sing that Debbie Friedman has composed.

“Debbie Friedman”

A profound woman, and prolific songwriter,
Debbie’s songs come from a place of freedom. They are simple. They are knowing.

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Emily Stern is a devotional poet and songwriter. Her album “Birth Day” can be downloaded on iTunes or from CD baby.  As an actor and playwright, her plays have been performed...

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