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A Song Without a Song

“How can we sing the song of a stranger on foreign soil” (Tehillim 137,4). When the Temple stood we had the opportunity to hear the beautiful song of the Levi’im. Today the Shir shel Yom serves as a substitute, but apparently the real shir is no more.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that even though the Temple now lies in ruins, we still have three kinds of song. The first type is a song with lyrics. While such a song can carry enormous spiritual power, it is still the lowest form of song, for its message is limited to the lyrics.

The second level of song is a tune without any words. Lacking any scripted message, this song transcends the first level. When one only hears a tune, his heart and imagination are free to draw their own inspiration from it. The highest level of song is a song without a song – the wellsprings of longing and hope that emanate from deep within our hearts. This is the highest level of prayer to Hashem. It is referred to at the end of Shemoneh Esrei as “hegyon libi,” the meditations of my heart. It is a song with no words, no tune, no limits.

We have sung the Shir shel Yom for so many years in exile. Let us pray that the Temple will be rebuilt soon, and we will hear the sweet songs of the Levi’im once again.

Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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