The Music and Texts of Rabbi Josh Warshawsky: Arise

"Arise" came out of the wake of the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017. In the aftermath, I was searching for inspiration and guidance in the texts of our tradition. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬, 𝐉𝐞𝐰𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐭𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭. 𝐒𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐚 𝐫𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐥. 𝐀 𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭. 𝐀 𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐤. This song is based on a collection of verses that were ringing in my ears that week, and as the one year anniversary of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting is this weekend, they unfortunately still continue to ring just as true today. - Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, October 2019

As you listen to the song and read the lyrics on the screen or below, think about the tone/key of the song and the message of the song. Do they match up? Do you think the rhythm and melody of the song is appropriate for the message of the song?

Look straight ahead, my son, look straight ahead (Proverbs 4:25)

As you overflow your cup you just remember what I said (Psalm 23)

Like a bloodstained multicolored coat a signpost dipped in red (Genesis 37)

Heed my call.

Guard your soul, your heart inside your chest (Proverbs 4:23)

The wicked lie and wait in darkness, they give you no rest (Proverbs 4:19)

How devious and cursed, is your mind up to the test?

You will not fall

You will walk and not break stride

You will not stumble when you ride (Proverbs 4:12)

Let the stranger be your guide in how to love

Life them up, heed their cries

Do not be wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 3:7)

Let the truth defeat the lies and come to light… and come to light

When you spread your hands in prayer (Isaiah 1:15)

Do not expect to hear an answer when there’s smoke still in the air

Your hands are full of blood and still you talk of what is fair?

We know not all...

Wash your hands, my son, stop doing wrong. (Isaiah 1:16)

Learn to do right, and come together, we have waited far too long

Arise, it’s time, seek justice, for together we are strong

We will not fall

I can hear the bells ringing

I can hear their voices singing

I can hear their feet marching

I can hear their hearts drumming

I can hear those people praying


1. What is your first reaction to the song? What did you think about while listening to it?

2. How do you respond to the prompt at the top - do the tone, rhythm, and melody match the message of the song? Why or why not?

3. What do you think the bells represent?

King Solomon is said to have written the Proverbs, a collection of wisdom designed to teach lessons to its readers. In these proverbs, Solomon is addressing his child, giving specific instructions for how to conduct themselves in life.

שְׁמַ֣ע בְּ֭נִי וְקַ֣ח אֲמָרָ֑י וְיִרְבּ֥וּ לְ֝ךָ֗ שְׁנ֣וֹת חַיִּֽים׃ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ חָ֭כְמָה הֹרֵתִ֑יךָ הִ֝דְרַכְתִּ֗יךָ בְּמַעְגְּלֵי־יֹֽשֶׁר׃ בְּֽ֭לֶכְתְּךָ לֹא־יֵצַ֣ר צַעֲדֶ֑ךָ וְאִם־תָּ֝ר֗וּץ לֹ֣א תִכָּשֵֽׁל׃ הַחֲזֵ֣ק בַּמּוּסָ֣ר אַל־תֶּ֑רֶף נִ֝צְּרֶ֗הָ כִּי־הִ֥יא חַיֶּֽיךָ׃ בְּאֹ֣רַח רְ֭שָׁעִים אַל־תָּבֹ֑א וְאַל־תְּ֝אַשֵּׁ֗ר בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ רָעִֽים׃ פְּרָעֵ֥הוּ אַל־תַּעֲבָר־בּ֑וֹ שְׂטֵ֖ה מֵעָלָ֣יו וַעֲבֽוֹר׃

My child, heed and take in my words, And you will have many years of life. I instruct you in the way of wisdom; I guide you in straight courses. You will walk without breaking stride; When you run, you will not stumble. Hold fast to discipline; do not let go; Keep it; it is your life. Do not enter on the path of the wicked; Do not walk on the way of evil people. Avoid it; do not pass through it; Turn away from it; pass it by.

4. What do you think it means to "walk without breaking stride" or to run without stumbling?

5. How easy is it to turn away from the path of evil? Is it a simple act?

6. Why is wisdom considered the opposite of evil?

בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃ אַל־תְּהִ֣י חָכָ֣ם בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ יְרָ֥א אֶת־ה' וְס֣וּר מֵרָֽע׃ רִ֭פְאוּת תְּהִ֣י לְשָׁרֶּ֑ךָ וְ֝שִׁקּ֗וּי לְעַצְמוֹתֶֽיךָ׃

In all your ways acknowledge God, And God will make your paths smooth. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and shun evil. It will be a cure for your body, A tonic for your bones.

7. Why is it negative to be "wise in your own eyes?" Isn't wisdom something to strive for?

8. How can fearing God be a cure for one's body?

The song references a "bloodstained multicolored coat a signpost dipped in red," a reference to the Coat of Many Colors which Jacob gave to his favorite son, Joseph. The text below describes the gift and Jacob's favoritism.

אֵ֣לֶּה ׀ תֹּלְד֣וֹת יַעֲקֹ֗ב יוֹסֵ֞ף בֶּן־שְׁבַֽע־עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה שָׁנָה֙ הָיָ֨ה רֹעֶ֤ה אֶת־אֶחָיו֙ בַּצֹּ֔אן וְה֣וּא נַ֗עַר אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י בִלְהָ֛ה וְאֶת־בְּנֵ֥י זִלְפָּ֖ה נְשֵׁ֣י אָבִ֑יו וַיָּבֵ֥א יוֹסֵ֛ף אֶת־דִּבָּתָ֥ם רָעָ֖ה אֶל־אֲבִיהֶֽם׃ וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָהַ֤ב אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ מִכָּל־בָּנָ֔יו כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִ֥ים ה֖וּא ל֑וֹ וְעָ֥שָׂה ל֖וֹ כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים׃ וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶחָ֗יו כִּֽי־אֹת֞וֹ אָהַ֤ב אֲבִיהֶם֙ מִכָּל־אֶחָ֔יו וַֽיִּשְׂנְא֖וּ אֹת֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יָכְל֖וּ דַּבְּר֥וֹ לְשָׁלֹֽם׃
This, then, is the line of Jacob: At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic. And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him.

9. Why do you think Rabbi Warshawsky would refer to Joseph's coat as "a signpost dipped in red?"

10. Was the hatred Joseph's brothers showed him justified?

11. Was Joseph at fault for their reaction? If so, why? If not, who was / was their someone else at fault?

12. Compare Jacob's role as a father to Solomon's role in Provebs. How do they contrast?

The book of Isaiah is one of the Tanach's scariest books. It is filled with warnings of the horrible things that will happen to the people of Israel is they turn away from God. It is very graphic and disturbing. In this section, Isaiah describes God's refusal to accept prayers and sacrifices from the Israelites because they have sinned and continue to sin. Isaiah is pointing out the hypocrisy of the Israelites in their desire to have their prayers heard by God while simultaneously turning their backs to God.

וּבְפָרִשְׂכֶ֣ם כַּפֵּיכֶ֗ם אַעְלִ֤ים עֵינַי֙ מִכֶּ֔ם גַּ֛ם כִּֽי־תַרְבּ֥וּ תְפִלָּ֖ה אֵינֶ֣נִּי שֹׁמֵ֑עַ יְדֵיכֶ֖ם דָּמִ֥ים מָלֵֽאוּ׃ רַחֲצוּ֙ הִזַּכּ֔וּ הָסִ֛ירוּ רֹ֥עַ מַעַלְלֵיכֶ֖ם מִנֶּ֣גֶד עֵינָ֑י חִדְל֖וּ הָרֵֽעַ׃ לִמְד֥וּ הֵיטֵ֛ב דִּרְשׁ֥וּ מִשְׁפָּ֖ט אַשְּׁר֣וּ חָמ֑וֹץ שִׁפְט֣וּ יָת֔וֹם רִ֖יבוּ אַלְמָנָֽה׃ (ס)
And when you lift up your hands, I will turn My eyes away from you; Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained with crime— Wash yourselves clean; Put your evil doings Away from My sight. Cease to do evil; Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow.

13. How do you think the Israelites responded to Isaiah's warnings?

14. What does it feel like to be told that God won't listen to your prayers?

15. Have you ever felt like there is something standing in the way of your prayers to God? What was that like?

16. Why do you think devoting to justice, helping the wronged, and upholding the rights of the orphan and the widow are the specific examples of ways to change one's behavior for the better? What makes these actions stand out against other good deeds?

Psalm 23, written by King David, is very famous and often sung at the end of Shabbat. It is often quoted in times of fear and it speaks about David's unwavering faith in God, even when life was at its most bleak. This psalm has found popularity in Christianity as well, often translated as, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil."

גַּ֤ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֨ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֘ירָ֤א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֝מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי׃ תַּעֲרֹ֬ךְ לְפָנַ֨י ׀ שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֝אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה׃ אַ֤ךְ ׀ ט֤וֹב וָחֶ֣סֶד יִ֭רְדְּפוּנִי כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑י וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י בְּבֵית־ה' לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים׃
Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my drink is abundant. Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many long years.

17. Why would this psalm be one that is sung at the end of Shabbat each week?

18. Is the image of God spreading a table for David in full view of his enemies positive or negative? Why? Does it change in context of the rest of the psalm?

19. Why wouldn't David fear harm here?

עֵ֭ינֶיךָ לְנֹ֣כַח יַבִּ֑יטוּ וְ֝עַפְעַפֶּ֗יךָ יַיְשִׁ֥רוּ נֶגְדֶּֽךָ׃ פַּ֭לֵּס מַעְגַּ֣ל רַגְלֶ֑ךָ וְֽכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ יִכֹּֽנוּ׃ אַֽל־תֵּט־יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹ֑אול הָסֵ֖ר רַגְלְךָ֣ מֵרָֽע׃
Let your eyes look forward, Your gaze be straight ahead. Survey the course you take, And all your ways will prosper. Do not swerve to the right or the left; Keep your feet from evil.

20. What's the difference between keeping one's eyes straight ahead and surveying the course one takes?

In this Talmudic passage, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai spent two and a half years arguing whether or not humankind should have ever been created at all. They recognize the sins and horrible actions of human beings and conclude that perhaps it would have been better if humankind never existed - but, since we are already here, we should strive to live life as careful as possible.

תנו רבנן שתי שנים ומחצה נחלקו בית שמאי ובית הלל הללו אומרים נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא והללו אומרים נוח לו לאדם שנברא יותר משלא נברא נמנו וגמרו נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא עכשיו שנברא יפשפש במעשיו ואמרי לה ימשמש במעשיו

The Sages taught the following baraita: For two and a half years, Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed. These say: It would have been preferable had humans not been created than to have been created. And those said: It is preferable for humans to have been created than had humans not been created. Ultimately, they were counted and concluded: It would have been preferable had humans not been created than to have been created. However, now that he has been created, they should examine their actions that they have performed and seek to correct them. And some say: They should scrutinize their planned actions and evaluate whether or not and in what manner those actions should be performed, so that they will not sin.

21. Imagine you're part of this conversation with Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. What would you argue? Why? What evidence would you use to prove your point?

22. The conversation ends with a note of sadness that humans do exist and instruction for how we should behave since we're here anyway. How would you end this conversation if you were moderating it? What would you want future generations to read here?

וְאֹ֣רַח צַ֭דִּיקִים כְּא֣וֹר נֹ֑גַהּ הוֹלֵ֥ךְ וָ֝א֗וֹר עַד־נְכ֥וֹן הַיּֽוֹם׃ דֶּ֣רֶךְ רְ֭שָׁעִים כָּֽאֲפֵלָ֑ה לֹ֥א יָ֝דְע֗וּ בַּמֶּ֥ה יִכָּשֵֽׁלוּ׃ (פ) בְּ֭נִי לִדְבָרַ֣י הַקְשִׁ֑יבָה לַ֝אֲמָרַ֗י הַט־אָזְנֶֽךָ׃ אַל־יַלִּ֥יזוּ מֵעֵינֶ֑יךָ שָׁ֝מְרֵ֗ם בְּת֣וֹךְ לְבָבֶֽךָ׃ כִּֽי־חַיִּ֣ים הֵ֭ם לְמֹצְאֵיהֶ֑ם וּֽלְכָל־בְּשָׂר֥וֹ מַרְפֵּֽא׃ מִֽכָּל־מִ֭שְׁמָר נְצֹ֣ר לִבֶּ֑ךָ כִּֽי־מִ֝מֶּ֗נּוּ תּוֹצְא֥וֹת חַיִּֽים׃

The path of the righteous is like radiant sunlight, Ever brightening until noon. The way of the wicked is all darkness; They do not know what will make them stumble. My child, listen to my speech; Incline your ear to my words. Do not lose sight of them; Keep them in your mind. They are life to those who find them, Healing for their whole body. More than all that you guard, guard your mind, For it is the source of life.

23. The image of light is constantly used to signify goodness. What might a different image be that could be used in this situation?

24. The text says the wicked "do not know what will make them stumble." This implies that the righteous DO KNOW what will make them stumble. Why do you think the righteous would know what will make them stumble? Why wouldn't they avoid stumbling instead?

25. "More than anything, guard your mind, For it is the source of life." This is a very powerful image. How would you phrase this for today? Imagine you were trying to give a friend instructions or a pep talk. How would you use this theme in your words?