All That Breathes

By: Ceceley Chambers

So I was sitting at my kitchen table doing facebook quizzes writing a paper when I hit a stopping point. I didn’t know what to say next, my mind was wandering, and so I began to sing what has become my favorite Jewish mantra: “Kol Haneshama Tehallel Yah” (All that has breath shall praise God). This is the final verse from Psalm 150, which is part of the set liturgy that is done everyday, including Shabbat and holidays. It is likely a fairly familiar one to many Jews… it’s the one where we sing “Halleluyah” a lot.

While participating in the Daavening Leadership Training Institute, I learned a beautiful version of “Kol Haneshama” from the amazing Miriam Cohen. Here is Miriam singing it along with her shruti:

This version really touches me and has a calming effect for me when I sing it. Not calming like a lullaby, but maybe more like centering. Do you have a song like that, maybe not even a religious one, but a popular one that has that effect on you? I sing this particular song all the time: when my boss is a jerk, when my kids/husband/mom annoy me, when I am trying to write and can’t think what to say, on the beach, and when I am super happy and just want to belt. I sing it in my car, in the shower, at Shabbat dinner, at my children’s bedtime, and at my kitchen table when I’m working.

So, as I said, I was recently sitting at my kitchen table and singing it when my dog who was functioning quite nicely as a footstool stood up and started staring at me. Now, just to set the scene, it was not like I had been completely silent and all of a sudden started singing to jolt him awake: I had been talking on the phone and out loud to myself, I had imaginary conversations with people (please tell me that I am not the only one who does that), and I had been singing other songs (that Taylor Swift has some pretty catchy lyrics). So it was a little surprising to me that it was “Kol Haneshama” that perked him up. I know it was not coincidence because the same thing happened when I made the recording for this post.

The first time it happened, I completely lost it and started laughing, which my dog found quite disturbing because he was getting into the song. He actually started barking at me and wouldn’t stop ‘til I resumed singing. Once I had finished, he laid back down, and I went back to writing with a big smile on my face. Kol haneshama tehallel Yah, all that breathes praises God indeed… even dogs!

P.S. If you identify as a woman, please come join us for our Rosh Chodesh women’s group, where we will explore women’s spirituality and prayers, and study texts related to the Hebrew month. The theme of our next gathering will be our foremother, Rachel. It will be at my house (I should really probably inform my husband of this) on Saturday, October 25 at 2:00pm. RSVP to get the address.

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