By Dean Bye
On September 26, Cantor Daniel Benlolo was shocked to see so many Montreal Jews and Christians showing up early at Shaare Zedek Congregation. They were arriving for a ‘Sing Together’ that he and myself as founder of the Christian Zionist organization of Return Ministries, are partnering in for the purpose of bringing Christians and Jews together for Israel. Their inspiration was the Israeli president‘s words earlier in 2018 and the phenomenal success of Koolulam in Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin established the 70th anniversary of Israel by declaring, “LET’S SING TOGETHER – Religious, secular, Arabs, Jews, soldiers, women, men, children . . . let’s put aside everything that divides us and do together what connects and brings us together. Amazingly, 12,000 Israelis then joined with him in a celebration of Israel’s 70th year of Independence.
The most recent gathering at Shaare Zedek was no ordinary choir as people poured into the Montreal synagogue. Cantor Benlolo, filled with pure joy, sensed it was such a privilege to lead them during this special Sukkot evening that he started everyone singing even before the on-timers and late arrivals came.
Rabbi Alan Bright said in his opening statement, “Song is the voice of the soul; it has the ability to traverse all religions; it has the ability to bring people together. You don’t even have to understand the language but when you hear the music you are touched by it. Do you know what happens when we come together in unison, when we sing, when we rejoice? When we do so for peace? Peace for all mankind? And God is about His Peace. We do one thing. We sanctify God’s Name. That is what tonight is all about, to bring back unity, to bring back peace and at the same time, to do so with a pure heart and soul which sanctifies God’s Name. And if we do so together, we will achieve what the scripture tells us, (spoke Lev. 23:40 in Hebrew and English) ‘we shall rejoice before God.’ Might we join together tonight and truly sing the evening away as we observe the festival of Sukkot and all its joy. Thank you and God bless you all.”
Daniel Bastien of Return Ministries, thanked Congregation President, Shirley Cooperberg, for opening the doors of the synagogue to welcome Christians that evening. And he thanked the Jewish community for opening their hearts to Christians coming to sing with them.
“When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with singing.” Psalm 126:1-2a.
Referring to the song that Jewish people know in Hebrew as “Shir Ha Ma’alot,” Danielle Theriault of Return Ministries shared that, “Those in the crowd representing the nations are honored to have been invited under the Jewish Sukkah in this festive season. Furthermore, we are blessed to have opportunity, through interactive song, to fulfill our part in the words of Psalm 126:2-3, declaring about Israel and the Jewish people: “The LORD has done great things for them!” To which the Jewish people respond, “HaShem asah nifa’ot lanu!” – “The LORD has done great things for us,” and together – “And we are glad!”
The evening also provided opportunity to participate as Christians and Jews as we work together for Israel. A video highlighted this ‘Work Together for Israel’ project that the Jewish Agency for Israel and Return Ministries have partnered in together since 2016. Situated on a 15-acre campus at Kibbutz Beit Zera in the Jordan Valley, they and Christians from the nations come to serve Israeli young people preparing for and completing their military service. Everyone was exhorted to not only Sing Together for Israel but also to ‘Work Together for Israel.’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WL6XTymWyd8&feature=youtu.be )
We are so grateful for the very warm welcome from the Jewish community of Montreal that we received as Christians representing a mix of multicultural and denominational backgrounds. It was thrilling to unite in singing together with joy during Sukkot. Just as a song provides respective parts for different singers to blend in harmony, so also God chooses and calls the people of Israel for specific purposes while He also chooses and calls the nations for their purpose. Canadian Christians join with millions of others from the nations as we do our God-given part in assisting our Jewish friends who are ready to fulfil their God-given calling, to make their Aliyah, to live and prosper in their promised land. We live in the times when the melody of these purposes is coming into harmony! As Sing Together moves out across Canada in 2019, our goal is to unite Christian and Jewish communities to not only come together to sing, but may this also break any and all walls that divide us. We need each other. May God so inspire all Canadian Jews and Christians to each do our respective part in working together for Israel, for the purpose of pleasing the One Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It was fitting that Cantor Benlolo rallied his new choir to close the unique evening in the responsive song ‘Hallelujah.’ Someone remarked it was like heaven and earth also sang along with great joy!
More information on Sing Together for Israel can be seen at www.singtogether.ca