Parshat Vayigash - Serach and her medicinal rhyme

This week we read of the members of Jacob''s family who went down to Egypt. There were 53 grandsons listed, but only a single granddaughter – Serach, the daughter of Asher. The commentators wonder, what was so exceptional about this girl that her name was recorded? The Midrash spills forth with stories portraying a powerful image of a unique and endearing Biblical heroine. Serach stands as a trusted, beloved sage of the people. Like Enoch and Elijah she simply never dies. What''s more, she possessed an uncommon gift of healing through poetry and music. Somewhat as Orpheus is to Greek myth, so is Serach to the Biblical myth – the archetypal poet and bard.
The Midrash on this week''s parsha tells of the brothers'' concern that Jacob would die from shock upon hearing the astounding news that his son Joseph was alive and well in Egypt. Their solution was to appoint Serach to the task of sharing the news with him. In one version Serach masterfully waits until Jacob is praying and then relays the news to him through the poetic form of three rhyming lines. In another rendering she sings the news to him gently and wonderously with a harp. Both versions reveal a girl with psychological insight into just how to approach Jacob with the potentially lethal news. Serach intuits how to tend to Jacob''s emotional wounds with song. Even though she was sharing a truth with him, and a fortunate truth at that, sometimes the sharing of truth with someone can be even more shattering than a lie. Where the bald facts could have killed Jacob, Serach''s simple almost child-like rhyme and song healed him, somehow opening him to hope and possibility after decades of despair.
So what is it about song and rhyme which is able to impart such promise and soothe such wounds? Voltaire is famous for saying, “Anything too stupid to be spoken in words is sung.” And this might be true enough if one were to survey song lyrics for their intellectual content. But God forbid the purpose of music would be deliver intellectual points. No, the great gift of song rests in its stirring of sentiment, its arousal of spirit, its curative catharsis of emotions. Song has the power to heal and inspire our very souls, not to impart knowledge. Serach, with her ample emotional intelligence and creativity knew how to utilize song, rhyme & poetry for their subtle therapeutic properties. May all of our artistic endeavors likewise access healing and inspiration, offering hope and the possibillity of betterment in the face of any despair. The poem below is a prayer and request to Serach to instruct us in how to do just that.
Serach, teach us please
your therapy of harmony
- that exquisit technique
that you work with your speech
reveal to us, ancient sister
your mesmeric tincture
of lyric and meter
and mix us well a word elixir
to soothe the wounds of
injured listeners
just the way
you sung your way
and stood in the way
of the heart-halting parade
of gold-laden wagons
come to stun an old man
too fast from his depression
for even despair can be
a precious thing
to those who cling to pain
as if it were a love letter
to the ones they''ve lost
but you with your harp
unraveled that knott''ed
yarn of a lie from Jacob''s
beguiled mind
- as you masterfully applied
the cautious remedy
of a child''s rhyme
plucked hope back
into a ruptured heart
and strummed him
through the sting and stun
of loss
Suddenly reversed
through your verse
- with the touch of a song
For is not the crowning goal
of creative endeavor
to heal the bereaved
and herald in a better reality?
So teach us more-loudly your
chemistry of composition
to make whats written
glisten from the page
to release vast
repositories of pain
to make space for
the joyful reception of miracles
of salvation and spiritual
like wagons laden with bread and corn,
and a child reborn
in the midst of a famine
and a lie overturned
and a family re-fashioned
So teach us Serach
your timeless talent
of healing hearts with harps
and the ancient art of rhyme
and let it start
with these faltering lines
- a prayer
for the gentle unraveling
of our lies