Early this morning I read a moving post on one of my favourite blogs, JewishMom.com, in which the author Chana Jenny Weisberg describes how a radio show she listens to always plays the same Shabbos song at the same time on Friday morning. She relates how the radio host reported that a young man had contacted him to say that he takes his children to school on Friday and they all sing along in the car. Some time later, the young man contacted him again to say that he had organised a special assembly at his children’s school at which all the children sing this song for the rebbe from whose chasidus the song comes. The final part of the post rather shockingly says that, sadly, the young man has died suddenly and Chana Jenny expresses her hope that one of the warm memories his children will retain of him, is of singing the song together on erev Shabbos.
Soon after that, I went out to by some bread for the children’s lunch. When I turned on the radio, the announcer said, “It’s that time of the week again,” and read out a dedication from a woman in honour of her husband, in which she said that she always sings along with The Liberty Bell March on a Friday morning. I hadn’t realised it, because I’m not always in the car then, but this radio show also always plays the same piece of music at the same time on a Friday morning! However, they are not doing it to welcome Shabbos, but to “celebrate someone who is saying goodbye to the world of work” and retiring that day.
I was very struck by the contrast between both the two ideas and the two pieces of music. The Shabbos song, Kah Echsof, is a beautiful poem, with a soulful tune, in which Rebbe Aharon of Karlin describes his yearning for “the sweetness of Shabbos”. The Liberty Bell March is a lively, jolly composition, suitable for a parade or a fairground. When I was telling our daughter about it on the way to school, I said that perhaps this could be a metaphor for two different ways of viewing Fridays: either a chance to prepare for the holiness of Shabbos, or “Yippee! Work’s over for the week, now I’m free!”
You could even take the metaphor further and say that it describes a whole world view – if Shabbos is considered a taste of the World to Come, and how we prepare for it is how we prepare for the World to Come, then we can highlight the contrast between viewing life as full of opportunities for spiritual growth or as a treadmill which we can’t wait to get off, in order to chase some elusive pleasure…