The Song of Rachel’s Sister (and More Bible and Music)

The Song of Rachel’s Sister (and More Bible and Music) August 27, 2021

Returning to the topic of the Bible and music with some items that are new to me and will likely be of interest to you. First, here is a song sung from the perspective of Rachel’s sister Leah:

Next, here is a press release about a new book with accompanying app focused on Psalm 27:

New smartphone app, based on the a book by Rabbi Debra J. Robbins, helps users engage in personal contemplation during the month of Elul and the High Holy Day season
New York, NY – August 2021 – CCAR Press, a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, is honored to announce its newest smartphone app, Psalm 27: Opening Your Heart. The app, available for iOS and Android phones, is based on the book Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27: A Spiritual Practice for the Jewish New Year by Rabbi Debra J. Robbins, which was published by CCAR Press in 2019. Rabbi Robbins serves Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas.
The Psalm 27: Opening Your Heart app similarly guides the user through a reflective process in the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days and through the festival of Sukkot. Each day presents a phrase from Psalm 27, a focused reflection, and an opportunity to write and sit quietly. The app includes all the essentials: spoken versions of the psalm, daily reminders, writing prompts, and a meditation timer. Also included are a variety of meaningful photographs and musical settings of the text by contemporary musicians and cantors.
Rabbi Dan Medwin, CCAR’s Director of Digital Media, said, “This is the most beautiful app we have created so far, with design elements intended to convey the calm which can be achieved through the meditative practice. We have gathered an amazing collection of original music to further enhance the experience.” While the app is intended to be used to help users prepare for the High Holy Days, it can also be used all year round by those who would like to engage in a more consistent routine.
The app’s companion book emerged from Rabbi Robbins’s own spiritual practice. She began reading the psalm daily in Elul, then began writing, and then added specific reflections and music to her ritual. When she shared her reflections with others, they encouraged her to compile a book. What emerged was a volume that helps us consider the deeper meaning of Psalm 27’s fourteen verses and reflect on our relationships, choices, beliefs, and practices during the month of Elul and the High Holy Day and Festival season.
“We created the app in response to requests from many people who have used the book, lay people and clergy alike. I’m grateful to everyone who shared their feedback and encouraged us to develop this twenty-first-century digital tool for spiritual practice,” said Rabbi Robbins. “I hope people will use the app in a variety of ways. It can be a complement to using the book or it can be used on its own. What I hope most is that people will use the app to do the real work of this season, open their hearts, and then be moved to continue that spiritual work into the new year.”
The Psalm 27 app joins CCAR’s preexisting collection of mobile applications. Among them are the Reform Luach, a calendar app designed specifically for the Reform Movement; Omer: A Counting, which, like its companion book, helps users along the transformative path from Passover to Shavuot; and Daily Blessings, which offers a full array of traditional and innovative blessings for life’s sacred moments. All CCAR Press apps are available for use on both Apple and Android devices.
The Psalm 27: Opening Your Heart app is now available to download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. The book can be ordered on CCAR Press also offers a free downloadable study guide ideally suited to adult education, book clubs, or individual study. Rabbi Robbins is available to teach at community events.

Another recommendation that came my way: Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata (sorry to be sharing it at the wrong time of year!):

This orchestral work by Arthur Bliss is thematically linked to Psalm 23:

I have been working on a section of my Bible and Music textbook that is about allusions to the Bible, especially in secular popular music, but also in others. Amy Gordon has set just the word Alleluia to music with a view to liturgical use. Would you consider that an allusion to the Bible? Why or why not?

See also:

How Were Biblical Psalms Originally Performed?

Charles Savelle has been sharing links related to Psalms on his blog lately. Here are his posts on Psalm 50, Psalm 51, and Psalm 52 as examples.

An open access article by Carine Botha has appeared in Verbum et Ecclesia, “The role of David in the composition and redactional grouping of the final davidic Psalter.” There’s also a new open access article out on Orthodox hymnography as biblical interpretation by Constantin Oancea in HTS  77.4 (2021), “The trees in the middle of Paradise (Gn 2:9) during the Great Lent: Orthodox hymnography as biblical interpretation.”

Musica Universalis

This article includes discussion of Spirituals in the context of exploring intersections between Christianity and environmental studies:

Expanding the Christian Boundaries of Environmental Studies: Chicana Novels as Environmental Literature and African American Spirituals as Nature Poetry


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