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For Debbie Friedman

Today, Shevat 4th in the Hebrew calendar, is the Yahrtzeit of Deborah Lynn Friedman, whose heartfelt approach to spiritual music has made so much wisdom and prayer accessible to our souls. She suffered much from illness in her life, yet her melodies emerge soaring and hopeful, and they helped birth spiritual awareness in many. A few words about Torah linked and dedicated to Debbie today, and then a song.

We read this week of awakening, the spiritual birth of a nation from the darkness of enslavement and inhumanity to the light of hope and freedom. We read of the last three of the plagues – three types of darkness. In the first, locusts darken the earth, hiding it from our view. I notice that today many of us live day to day nourished by the fruits of the earth, yet without awareness, or even the feel of the earth beneath our feet – and we don’t even have locusts to hide it,  just our routines! Next a thick darkness envelopes Egypt, a darkness that can be touched, in which a person cannot see their brother. Yet light existed in the dwellings of the Israelites, so this is no ordinary darkness, but an ethical and spiritual place. Finally the ultimate darkness, death of the firstborn of Egypt. Part of me knows that this is payback for the killing of the Israelite baby boys. Another part of me suspects that this is an assassination of the leadership (i.e. firstborn) of Egypt in a war for freedom, with credit given to God. But part of me cries. These Egyptian families were our friends, our neighbors. They freely gave us gifts, treasures for our journey into freedom. It is true that battles for liberation are bloody and sad. We are birthed as a nation through a womb marked with blood, symbolized perhaps by the markings on our doorposts. But in spite of the pain, and through it, we are birthed into light of  hope and freedom.
Debbie Friedman’s “Sow in Tears” is perfectly expresses this transformation from tragedy to joy.
Those who sow, who sow in tears, shall reap in joy!
It’s the song of the dreamer from the dark place it grows,

Like a flower in the desert, the oasis of the soul,

Come back, come back where we belong, You who hear our longing sighs,
Our lips our mouths are filled with song, you can see my tear filled eyes!

Hazorim, b’dimah, b’rinah yiktzoru

from Psalm 126
Here is a video of Debbie singing her Mi Sheberach, and then into Sow in Tears
May her memory be for blessing!

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