Singing on Shabbat is what transforms the day into a spiritual delight. Even as the pandemic ebbs, many are not yet ready to sing with a group. How I miss singing with my friends in services and at dining room tables! Don’t give up on singing because it may be the starting point to transforming the world.

In Parshat Chukat, Numbers 19:1 – 22:1, Miriam dies. The well that followed her through the dessert dried up. The wandering Hebrews needed water. They complained bitterly to Moses in despair. God instructed Moses to speak to the rock at Meribah to produce water. Rather, Moses, who was likely exasperated, tired and disheartened, hit the rock.  This instance of faithlessness was the basis for God refusing Moses’ entry into the Promised Land.

With further wandering and water again lacking, God gave Moses an instruction to assemble the people at Be’er “so that I might give them water.”  Be’er in Hebrew means well! There the people sang a song – “spring up O well”. Then the nobles loosened the earth and the chieftains dug out a well. Perhaps this time the people had faith in their leadership and God. Water sprang up from the earth.

The song of the people, as a demonstration of their faith, inspired the leadership to dig the well. The precursor to success was the encouragement of prayerful singing. Then, in a combined effort, the tribal heads provided the needed relief through collaborative efforts. While the water was already there, access came only when the leadership pulled together to complete the task. What a model for our time! With song and collaboration, an urgent task was quickly completed.

The next steps in the story inform us how ordinary can be lifted to become extraordinary. The people continued their travels toward Canaan in the Midbar (wilderness) to three new stops in rapid succession. The first stop was Matanah (a gift). The second stop was Nahaliel (an inheritance from God). The third stop in this progression was Bamoth (high places). Note that the word Bimah which is the elevate platform in synagogue comes from the same root letters as Bamoth.

We have no indication that any of these three places were particularly meaningful or pleasant.  In fact, one could read Torah such that these were not physical but rather spiritual places. Once a people come together with song, cooperation, and faith they moved from being in the wilderness to residing in a holy place, even if they haven’t travelled at all.

Torah reminds us that God, like water, is the source of life. With faith, we transform what might have appeared to be a mere gift into an inheritance from God. Holiness is recognizing that we can reside in the high places, elevating our lives with the realization that these are inheritances from God.

One way we bring down holiness is by lifting our voices. The transformation of ordinary to extraordinary continues with collaboration.  The process reaches holiness with awareness that the source of our lives is Divine. Then we return to songs of praise, hallelujah!

The prayer songs we need today are songs of hope. We start the demand for justice with voices raised in song, (“We shall overcome”). We bring healing to those who are sick with soothing song (“misheberach”).  We are called to protect our planet when we hear the song of the animals, the birds, the whales, and even the cicadas.

After the singing comes cooperation which is the way to quench thirst in the droughts of our time – Covid 19 and other diseases, the subjugation of and hatred toward minorities, and the burning up of our planet. We need more cooperation to overcome the plagues of our day, to quench the burning issues of disease, racism, anti-Semitism, ecological disaster and more.

Most poignantly, we need faith. Despair anticipates destruction. Cooperation and hope make manifest progress. After all, the water the people needed was there all along, just waiting to be found! All that was required to find the water was a song, collaboration, and faith.

Whether your role is to sing out in prayer, cooperate in leadership, or inspire others with faith, each of us has a role to play. If we will only act in recognition that our lives are gifts from God, every place will be like a bimah, elevated in holiness.

In this way Torah teaches us that our wanderings can become discoveries, and our wilderness converted to altars. The first step might be to lift your voices in song. So, keep singing and believing friends.  Shabbat shalom.