Monthly Archives: February 2023

Shabbat Shira FOMO

This week we marked the retirement of an 18th round draft pick of the Montreal Expos, a once summer intern for Merrill Lynch. That’s right, Tom Brady! Who is Tom Brady? To some, he is a Moses-like figure, delivering a New England Patriots squad from the slavery of mediocrity to the promised land of 6 NFL championships. To others, such as members of the AFC East, he is Pharaoh, punishing the division for almost two decades. He is also Pharaoh to the NFC East foes, who used their underdog status to supplant the mighty Brady. Or, even to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is Pharaoh, changing his retirement status as often as Pharaoh changed his mind about freeing the Israelites.  

In debating this Moses or Pharaoh question, I’ve been thinking about my connection to Brady and to my childhood team, the New England Patriots. To clarify my allegiances, I began my Jaguars conversion in 2008 and reaffirmed my commitment to the Jaguars when #MylesJackwasn’tdown the Jaguars played the Patriots in the AFC championship 5 years ago. Now that that is settled, the Patriots have won 3 of their 6 championships since we moved to Jacksonville- 2015, 2017, and 2019. 

2015- Where was I? At home. Our family was invited out to Robin and Jefrey Morris’ house. Before kickoff, I said I was already stressed out and that if the game were tied 14-14 at halftime, I would have to go home to watch the rest by myself. Well, at halftime the score was 14-14, so I went home, as I watched Malcolm Butler’s interception clinch a Patriots victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

2017- Where was I? At home! The stresses of 2015 informed my decision to watch the game at home using my DVR, doing laundry/busy work around the house only to fast forward through commercials to watch the 4th quarter in real time. The Patriots came back from 28-3 to beat the Atlanta Falcons, securing the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.  

And finally 2019- where was I? You guessed it, Uganda. Waking up in the early morning hours, the Superbowl could only be “watched” via a refreshing webpage on, a game that ended 13-3, with me celebrating in my hotel room some 7,000 miles away. 

3 NFL championships, all experienced alone. None of those experiences compared to a game I attended a few weeks ago. An opening playoff round miracle. A miracle because the scheduling gods waited for Aaron Rodgers to lose to the Detroit Lions in the final game of the season so that the Jaguars would host a Saturday night playoff after Shabbat. A miracle that toes still have circulation in 30 degree temperatures. A miracle, in seeing the lows and highs of being down 27-0 only to triumph over the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30. Where was I? In a sea of teal, a single ticket holder amongst tens of thousands of fans united under a single cause, for it was always the jags. No it’s not a superbowl victory, but so much sweeter than those other victories because it was experienced in a community. 

That sounds like a great sermon. Be there. Experience community. Do things together. It’s the storyline of a movie released just this past week, 80 for Brady, in which four best friends live life to the fullest when they embark on a wild trip to see their hero, Tom Brady, play in the 2017 Super Bowl. Sounds great, but more likely than not, it’s a great drash for next week, when we consider how our tradition views the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. A midrash suggests the idea that all Jews; past, present, and future, stood at Mt. Sinai to receive the revelation of Torah

 “In order to establish you today as his people…,” so that I would not go back on the word that I swore to your ancestors. Deut. 29:13), “And not only with you [have I made this covenant and this oath].” But rather the generations that have yet to come were also there at that time, as stated (in vs. 14), “But with those who are [standing (‘md)] here with us [today… and with those who are not here with us today].” R. Abahu said in the name of R. Samuel bar Nahmani, “Why does it say, ‘those who are [standing (‘md)] here […]; and those who are not here’ (without using the word, standing)? Because all the souls were there, [even] when [their] bodies had still not been created. It is for that reason [their] existence (literally, standing, rt.: ‘md) is not stated here.” (Midrash Tanchuma Nitzavim 3:1)

You see, all Jews were at Sinai. What a moment to be there, together, at that “you had to be there” moment in history. Sounds great, but again it’s not the sermon for this week.

If Sinai is the Super Bowl, Shirat Hayam, the song of the sea, is the long road to and through the playoffs. And tradition does not suggest we were all there at the foot of the water. We weren’t there. We didn’t have a ticket. It wasn’t a recording we can later watch as a primetime special. So what do we do when we weren’t there for such a moment of celebration, such a moment of weight coming off our shoulders? We beat the odds, we overcame Pharaoh and mass oppression, and we weren’t there for the game or the post party celebration.   

We find the answer in the torah portion itself. We recite the Song of the Sea in its entirety, and Miriam responds with her own take on the song in the lyrics that follow: 

כִּ֣י בָא֩ ס֨וּס פַּרְעֹ֜ה בְּרִכְבּ֤וֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁיו֙ בַּיָּ֔ם     וַיָּ֧שֶׁב יְהֹוָ֛ה עֲלֵהֶ֖ם אֶת־מֵ֣י הַיָּ֑ם     וּבְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל הָלְכ֥וּ בַיַּבָּשָׁ֖ה בְּת֥וֹךְ הַיָּֽם׃ {פ}

For the horses of Pharaoh, with his chariots and riders, went into the sea; and יהוה turned back on them the waters of the sea; but the Israelites marched on dry ground in the midst of the sea.

וַתִּקַּח֩ מִרְיָ֨ם הַנְּבִיאָ֜ה אֲח֧וֹת אַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־הַתֹּ֖ף בְּיָדָ֑הּ וַתֵּצֶ֤אןָ כׇֽל־הַנָּשִׁים֙ אַחֲרֶ֔יהָ בְּתֻפִּ֖ים וּבִמְחֹלֹֽת׃

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, picked up a hand-drum, and all the women went out after her in dance with hand-drums.

וַתַּ֥עַן לָהֶ֖ם מִרְיָ֑ם שִׁ֤ירוּ לַֽיהֹוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה ס֥וּס וְרֹכְב֖וֹ רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם׃ {ס}    

And Miriam answered them:

Sing to יהוה, for He has triumphed gloriously;

Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.

Miriam, made the story, the song, the dance, her own. Moses had his spin, and Miriam, with a tambourine in her hand, added her own story to the mix.

A few weeks ago, singer David Crosby, passed away at the age of 81. Crosby’s father, Floyd, was an Oscar-winning cinematographer – traveling to pre-Israel Palestine in 1946 to make the documentary My Father’s House, a story not only about displaced Jews, but of the birth of a permanent Jewish state. In many ways, Floyd was a trailblazing story teller himself, adapting the old adage that if a picture says a thousand words, a moving picture transports us to another world. 

Now David Crosby was a strong opinionated, charismatic leader of both the Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash (and Young). He played a role in the counterculture movement in spite of being a descendant of two well established families, the Van Cortlandts and the Van Rensselaers. He had demons that materialized in the form of drug addiction, resulting in health issues that plagued him for most of his adult life. But he also made magnificent music. As Miriam before him, Crosby took a metaphoric timbrel, or a metaphoric tambourine in his hand in popularizing the song “Mr. Tambourine Man” with his band the Byrds back in April 1965. 

Crosby’s story, and the song he is most often associated with, Mr Tambourine Man, parallel how we might view another song, the song of the sea.

As many of you might know, Mr Tambourine Man isn’t an original Byrds song at all. It’s a Bob Dylan song. Dylan released the song a few days AFTER the Byrds did in April of 1965, but he had signed off on their arrangement back in January of that year. Crosby loved Dylan’s writing style, his storytelling, and added his own take on the song.

So what was in the arrangement? As bandmate Roger McGuinn once said,

“I give the credit to Crosby…He was brilliant at devising these harmony parts that were not a strict third, fourth, or fifth improvisational combination of the three. That’s what makes the Byrds’ harmonies.”

Where did that ear for harmonies come from? Maybe it was from his youth, as Crosby notes in his autobiography that as a child he used to harmonize as his mother sang, his father played mandolin and his brother played guitar. 

Dylan the lyrics, Crosby the harmonies, and I imagine the Byrds played the instruments, right? Well, sorta. McGuinn played his 12 string guitar, but everything else on the track (outside the tight harmonies of Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby) was performed by the Wrecking Crew, a group of top-tier Los Angeles session musicians. 

One person, Bob Dylan, was present at the birthing of the music and lyrics to Mr. Tambourine Man. But as we can see, the song we know today has been nurtured, adapted and beautified by those who heard its call. Each person contributed their own layer to its story. 

The art of storytelling, and the art of song-writing, is making the story come alive in new and creative ways. We make it our own AND we join in conversation with the past as partners in forming its legacy- not as a song of yesterday but as a song that continues to grow and develop. 

So were we there at the edge of the water? Were we there to witness every moment of unease and exaltation? Maybe not. But in retelling the stories of Egypt, the stories of pain and suffering alongside the stories of hope and of relief, of watching the waves surge open and close; in making those words and melodies come alive in our own hearts, we add our voice to the story, and make it our own.   

Our stories, our songs, are built on the melodies and souls that came before us. They are uniquely ours- songs informed by history and our story. These are the layers of history, of Jewish history, the harmonies and chords built on the foundational notes of those first moments as a people. As we approach a new year in the week ahead (Tu Bishvat), may we be reminded to appreciate the roots as much as we appreciate the budding flower, for in hearing of our people’s original triumph, we appreciate the triumph of being able to tell their story, in our own way, each and every day.