BUT I WILL SING YOUR STRENGTH
EXTOL EACH MORNING YOUR LOVINGKINDNESS
FOR YOU HAVE BEEN MY HAVEN
AND MY REFUGE IN MY TIME OF TROUBLE
TO YOU, O MY STRENGTH, I WILL SING
-PSALM 59: 17-18
Va’ani Ashir Uzecha
Melody by Josh Warshawsky, Lyrics Psalm 59:17-18
These words come from Psalm 59, which is a psalm that is not a part of our liturgy. I found them when searching for texts in the Jewish canon that speak of strength. The most familiar is the phrase, “Ozi v’zimrat Yah vayehi li li’yeshua,” from the Song of the Sea (Shirat Hayam). There is a midrash (story/explanation – exegesis) that goes along with these words from the Shir Hashirim Rabbah (Exegesis from the Song of Songs). Shir Hashirim Rabbah is filled with parables of a king and the king’s relations with various people in the kingdom. In this particular midrash, the king has in his possession many precious jewels and stones; rubies and emeralds, diamonds and gold. The king’s child approaches the king and says, “Father, let me have those.” And the king says, “They’re yours, they’ve always been yours, and to you I give them.” The rabbis liken this parable to the people of Israel as they stand at the shore of the red sea before it has been split. The Egyptians are at their backs and they are frightened. They call out to God and say, “God! Give us strength! Ozi V’zimrat Yah!” And God replies, “It’s yours, it’s always been yours, and to you I give it.” And the midrash continues, “v’ein oz ela Torah,” and there is no strength except for Torah.
So what does it mean for the Torah to be our strength? I thought about the words of this Psalm, “Va’ani ashir uzecha,” And I will sing Your strength.” What does it mean to sing Torah into the world? How can we sing our strengths into the world? To sing is to share, to publicize. In this case it is a communal act. And through singing Torah, God’s strength and gift to us, we find our own Torah, our own strength. The words of this verse begin “Va’ani ashir uzecha,” And I will sing YOUR strength, but they end, “Uzi eilecha azamerah,” MY strength, I will sing out to You.