Singing in the bath

By now, you know that Shaina loves to sing. She barely talks but can belt out the lyrics of dozens of songs (admittedly, with her own pronunciation). Shaina insists that I sing along with her and can’t understand how her verbal dad doesn’t know all the songs. She often surprises us with words from a song we’ve never heard before.

Music is the language of the soul. Where words fail, melody excels. A tune may transport us to warm memories of our youth or teleport us to a heightened state of spirituality. Music alters our mood, calming, saddening or exciting us. Shaina has so much soul; it’s no wonder she lives through music.

Melody is central to Jewish life. We have tunes for our prayers, the Shabbat meals, festivals and lifecycle events. Shaina knows them all. On Friday nights, she zooms into Shul just before the lively Lecha Dodi, stares eagerly at me and asks, “Happy song?”. On Shabbos mornings, when she feels I’ve been talking for too long, she demands, “Happy song!”. Shaina believes we gain more from singing than from talking. She’s right. You can’t sing badly about other people.  

Chabad has many goosebumps songs- deeply moving melodies that convey the soul’s yearning for transcendence and connection. The most powerful one is the stirring melody known as the “Alter Rebbe’s Niggun”. It is a profoundly spiritual tune comprised of four movements to transport us through the four spiritual dimensions of Existence. If you close your eyes and sing it with focused intention, it is a movingly spiritual experience.

Shaina learned this tune in the run-up to her older sibling’s weddings. Before her brother Mendy married Sara Malka in 2020, Shaina watched hours of chupah videos, picking up the holy tune. When her sister Rivky married Mendel last September, Shaina was ready with the “Alter Rebbe’s Niggun”. Yesterday, she forced Sarale to wear a towel as a veil before circling her while singing this rousing melody.

The Jewish way to show respect for something holy is to keep it away from places or situations that are dirty or where people are not appropriately dressed. We don’t take holy books into the bathroom and may not pray in the presence of a person- even a child- who is not fully clothed. No self-respecting Chabadnik would dare sing a spiritual “niggun” melody in the bathroom.

Except for Shaina.

Shaina always sings when she takes a bath. Her bathtime repertoire ranges from “The wheels of the bus” to Choni G’s “Bo’ee Kallah” (her favourite, but not technically appropriate for the bathroom). Naomi and I were floored when we recently heard her sing the “Alter Rebbe’s niggun” while in the bath. We would only ever sing that spine-tingling tune on the holiest Jewish holidays or at the solemn wedding ceremony. There she was, singing it as she soaped up.

We both chuckled, relieved that nobody else was listening and aware that this encapsulates the uniqueness of life with Shaina. We’d be highly embarrassed if a fellow rabbi arrived to the strains of the niggun coming from the bath- as we are sometimes red-faced when she sings “Baby Shark” at the Friday night table. 

Truth be told, we’re not ashamed. Uncomfortable, maybe. We realise our discomfort is because we live in the world of words- where contradictions are an issue. If two people speak simultaneously, their voices clash, and we can’t understand what either one says. In the world of music, melody and harmony enrich the experience.

Life as a thinking, verbal adult requires ongoing discernment to avoid living with hypocrisy or contradiction. Shaina lives with music, where the bath and the soul never clash.

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

7 thoughts on “Singing in the bath

  1. Isn‘t music,especially,singing one of the 1st strongest ways to connect with G-d? Singing connects people no matter their language, religion nor background, because , as you pointed out , it comes from the soul. Somehow we all feel at easy when we bathe or take a shower and I think it may be so because we‘re there without any (social) veils.Shaina reminds you of this pure self before written Language and the roles we all have to play in a society. What a gift she‘s given you. Baruch HaShem 🙌

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love love and more love this spontaneous, sweet Shaina girlie who is so full of life and a giver of love!! She is my tonic, a reminder of everything that’s positive and good. 💕💕


  3. I was on stage at 2.6yrs old singing & dancing with my Gran,to raise charity geld.I loved it.Singing is great Shayna.


  4. Go Shaina go, it is because of special Neshomas like you in this worldvthT we can Czech
    C carry on singing to Hashemite.
    Lots of luv❤️😇🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Rabbi for sharing your darling, precious, unique and incredibly special Shaina with the world. So many of these stories put the hugest smile on my face. Shaina is bli eyin hara perfection in so many ways. May her beautiful neshoma remain immensely happy always and May she never lose those songs in her heart. How wisely she chose her parents.

    Liked by 1 person

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