Shabbat Shirah: The Week's End - January 26, 2024
Jan 26th 2024

Shabbat Shirah is centered around two Biblical songs or poems of victory. This week’s Torah reading includes the Song of the Sea, sung by Moses and the Israelites after crossing the Sea of Reeds and witnessing Pharaoh’s pursuing army drown in the waters. This week’s Haftarah highlights Deborah the Judge’s song of victory after the Israelite forces under her leadership defeated the army of Sisera in battle.

Both of these songs celebrate a decisive and rapid victory. The Egyptians are pursuing the Israelites, and then, suddenly, they aren’t. Sisera’s army is suffer defeated in battle on a single day.

Israel’s current war is very different. There is no victory to celebrate, at least not yet. Even if victory is achievedable – never mind the different and increasingly competing war goals that would define victory – it will not have been rapid. Nor is it likely to be a decisive victory. Adding to the complexity is the cost of victory, be it the deaths and injuries of soldiers, the months-long displacement of residents of the south and north, and the damage to Israel’s standing in the court of public opinion (I write this on Thursday afternoon, prior to the ruling of the ICJ in the Hague).

When the moment finally arrives, what will be this war’s song of victory? Will it be joyous and celebratory? Likely not. Seemingly, like everything else over these last months, it will be complex, bittersweet and challenging. It may be a cathartic release of trauma. It may be a call for political change. It may be a call to support wounded soldiers and the families of soldiers killed in battle.

This Shabbat Shirah, let our voices carry prayers of peace, of protection and of well-being to our Israeli brethren.