Biblical prophets made great use of rhyme and word-music. That fact often gets lost: we mostly read Torah from translations that don’t convey the poetry. Even in Hebrew, the music in the text usually doesn’t come out unless it’s deliberately emphasized.
Take this example from Exodus. The Plagues are wrecking Egypt. Pharaoh, desperate, toys with the idea of letting some of Moses’ peoples go.
He asks Moses (Exodus 10:8), “Who’s going?”
Moses answers (10:9):
We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds we will go - for we must hold a celebration unto the LORD.
In Hebrew that sounds something like:
Binaraynew u’vizkaynaynew naylaych, b’vanaynew u’vivnosaynew
b’tzonaynew u’vivkaraynew naylaych – key chag HASHEM láhnew.
This July, I visited a congregation that takes the music, rhyme and rhythm in Israel’s prayers and Scripture seriously.
It was great. They brought out more of the beauty in the Hebrew liturgy than anyone I’d ever heard.
“Where are all the Noachide churches?” we asked before ["Why No Churches?" (Nov. 2017) ] But here was this congregation in Kokomo, Indiana, holding a late Friday afternoon pre-Sabbath service, where the congregants had come to Judaism - as they define it.
They’re mostly but not all black people. They’re loaded with skill and talent. You could see that they had worked long and hard to perfect the service. They sang the Jewish prayers and recitals from the siddur, the prayer book – when I asked for a siddur they gave me one of the same edition that I normally use - individually, as duets, and all together. They danced. They used musical instruments, including a ram’s horn shofar. One young guy rapped.
They were good in the way that makes it look easy. When they prayed collectively you could see that, except for the small children, they had all already prayed together countless times like that.
They did lots of things I’d never seen before. You can see some pictures, and a video of a mother and daughter singing Adon Olam, a beautiful hymn, sung beautifully. See Kokomo Congregation
I was impressed. They put me in mind of a rare science fiction scenario in Psalm 92, which is recited prayerfully each week as Jews accept the sanctity of Shabbos upon themselves.
Promising future blessings in the Messianic Age, the lyre - or anyway, machines that somehow resemble lyres - will have ten strings. Because music, currently limited to the octave of eight notes, will be radically improved and extended. In fact, all the arts will be incredibly improved, and practically transformed. While the biggest improvements will be in the quality of human worship.
Watching the service, impressed by the innovations, I was thinking, could this be a harbinger of the Messianic Age?
A good soul in what used to be called Portuguese Goa, in India, of all places, had put me in touch with her “home” congregation in Kokomo, Indiana: Yeshivat Tzion.
Their fervor, pure Hebrew pronunciations, and sheer dedication to their new religion impressed me. A founding rabbi, the senior pastor, explained that he had absorbed a great deal of Torah knowledge, and kabbalah.
This gentleman had come to Judaism, as he defined it, as an adult. It happened after he became a Baptist pastor, and after investigating the world’s religions. He had studied with the Satmar Hasidim, he told me. He’d come a long way from his life’s Baptist stage, he said.
We have seen this kind of thing in other times and places. In the thousands of years of the Hebrew Revolution and the continuing unfolding of the radical liberation movement from Sinai, Judaism has encountered lots of self-styled Jews. It’s a phenomenon related to the overarching nature of the phenomena of Israel and Torah, effecting change in human history. It’s also related, sometimes, to true, humble, consciousness of God.
Certainly, in the larger scheme of things, Yeshivat Tzion in Kokomo was inevitable. We can presume with perfect certainty that God didn’t just see this coming but had a hand in it. But what it is now is, obviously, not necessarily what it will become.
They call themselves Jews. We'd call them Noachides. Since they are Americans, in America, they can call themselves whatever pleases them. No individual nor agency of the Jewish People possesses any authority over them. So these people have every right, spiritually and religiously, under U.S. law, to go anywhere they want to go.
We expect change. Something new will come of this though we don’t know what yet. As committed to their way as these people are, nothing is etched in stone. Their spiritual flight path hasn't been fully mapped yet. The situation, for all its apparent solidity, is dynamic.
As for the ancient revolutionary movement, of Israel and Torah and greater God-consciousness, it has benefitted in the past and also suffered bitterly from these kinds of things. Lots of movements similar to Yeshivat Tzion have disappeared. Think of Abraham and all those “souls he made in Haran” (Genesis 12:5). They are lost in history. What happened to them?
There is one key to success. Or call it a metric for achievement – that is, the standard by which we judge things - and a formula for righteousness, forever. It applies with equal strength to Noahides and Jews. It’s contained in these words, from the prophet Micah, 6:8:
“It has been told you, O man, what is good, and what HaShem requires of you:
Only to do justly, and to love chesed (loving-kindness), and to walk humbly with your God.”
- Micah 6:8
We’ll see how they do.
By Michael Dallen