Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, September 13, 2019 / 13 Elul 5779
Summary: This will be the last planned Oasis Songs blog until after the conclusion of our Fall holidays. Rabbi Kosak speaks about the lovely Hashkiveinu prayer and the musical setting that Ilene created for it.
Was it the summer of 2015 or 2016? On one of those first Fridays, Ilene Safyan was at it again, lending her voice and her spirit to our Erev Shabbat service. She had asked me if it was okay to play her own setting for the lovely Hashkiveinu prayer. Those of us who heard it for the first time were stunned at its quiet beauty and deep emotion. The music of guitar and voice gave splendid expression to the meaning of the prayer.
Hashkiveinu is the second prayer or benediction recited after the Sh’ma in the ma’ariv service we chant in the evenings—whether that is weekday, Shabbat or on the shalosh regalim. The word hashkiveinu is a construct which means “cause us to lie down.” In the body of the prayer, we ask that God protect us from a series of possible misfortunes: from enemies and pestilence, from starvation, war and sorrow. We ask to be symbolically sheltered beneath God’s protective wings. Finally, we ask that God guard our coming and our going, and extend to us life and peace.
According to the Talmud (Berakhot 4b, 9b, 42a), this prayer is also considered a ge’ulah arikhta, an extended formulation of redemption. As such, it is connected to our freedom from slavery in the house of Egypt. Because of this, one rabbi notes how it thus emphasizes the themes of truth and trust. Just as God protected us then, so can we in truth live our lives in a trusting manner. That seems to be a perennial message and reminder, as so often, when things look bad, many of us retreat to a psychological stance of distrust, imagining that this spiritual cynicism can better protect us.
Over the years of listening to Ilene, her music has only deepened my appreciation for the power of this prayer, and the majestic way that music can lead us to a feeling state that otherwise might be closed off to us. In other words, the music allows us to move into a trusting prayer space.
Over a year ago, I asked Ilene if this song could be shared with the congregation as a gift of heart, and she agreed. She recorded a version at Steve Landsberg’s studio, and you will find a link to it HERE. The gift does come with a caveat or two—it is for the personal use of congregants (don’t share without Ilene’s permission), and you should also feel free to visit Ilene’s webpage by going HERE.
Please view this as a gift before our High Holidays from your kehillah. Consider using it as preparation before you or your children go to bed at night (one of the times it is traditionally recited). Finally, as with all gifts of the spirit, please recognize that the only way to repay such generosity is by returning it with your own offering of spirit. Perhaps you have a skill or talent you can share to strengthen our community?
Allow me to wish you all a year filled with the protections contained in the Hashkiveinu prayer. May you lie down in peace, and awaken to peace. And as distant as it sometimes seems, may the world as a whole also find its way to peace, and be protected from sorrow.
Shanah tovah u’metukah—a sweet year to you!
Shabbat and New Year’s Table Talk
- What fears and worries have you carried with you this past year?
- Is there a fear or worry you would like to relinquish in the new year?
- Can you recall incidents or moments of protection you experience over the past year?
If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.