There is a very special birthday coming up!
The Rabbis teach that the holiday of Shavuos is both the birthday and yahrtzeit of King David, of blessed memory.
And King David has a message for us, a message that is more relevant than ever in these challenging times.
Let’s be honest, the past few months have been rough. The world as we knew it seems to have disappeared, with no clear date of return. All around us there is anxiety, and so many people have tragically suffered real loss.
That’s where King David comes in.
Known as the “Sweet Singer of Israel,” King David sang through times that were far from sweet. Through times of anxiety, fear, anger, sorrow, and, of course, joy, as well — King David never stopped singing.
As Leonard Cohen sang for us in his famous paean to King David, “There’s a blaze of light in [his] every word,” whether it’s a “holy, broken, or cold,” Hallelujah.
King David taught us that no matter what, as long as we are alive, there is so much worth singing about.
The Talmud teaches that in all of history there was only one individual who was an even greater songwriter and singer than King David. The Rabbis shockingly teach that the evil King Nebuchadnezzar would have composed songs that surpassed even those of David, if not for the fact that God sent an angel to smite him.
The great Rebbe of Kotzk asked — Is that fair? Why deprive the world of Nebudchadnezzar’s sweet music?
The Rebbe offered a brilliant insight. Being smitten by God wasn’t a punishment; it was an opportunity. King David’s loftiest songs were composed through pain: “From the depths I call out to you,” “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” King Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant composer but lacked the essential adversity that engenders greatness and creativity. God offered it to him, but he mistook the gift of adversity for punishment.
In the last few months, much of what we know seems broken, including our hearts, which are wracked with pain and uncertainty. But as the Kotzker Rebbe taught, “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart.”
Our community has truly shown greatness throughout this difficult time, and I know our best is yet to come. So please join in — let’s all sing together. Sing “Happy Birthday” to King David. And sing to better days ahead — days where we sing songs of joy, well-earned as we persevere and emerge stronger from this difficult time.
Wishing all a sweet and joyous yom tov of Shavuos,
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz