The Meaning of Music

Homeschooling can be an important way for parents to further childrens ethical education, well-being, and spiritual development. There is an opportunity to make the content fun and beneficial to the child’s intellectual and moral growth, and to set them up for a life of learning in the Jewish arts. There is a long tradition of this connection: In ancient Israel, the Temple was the site of music-making by the Levites serving in the Mamadot.

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Music education can start in the womb, as children who hear Mozart’s music have been shown to be born with a greater ability to focus and stronger analytical skills. Toddlers should respond positively to singing songs and lullabies, and multilingualism can be cultivated by singing together; for excellent examples of songs to sing together, see Mama Lisa’s lullabies from around the world. Singing can help children develop creativity, cognitive skills, and listening skills. Playing along with instruments or movement-based activities can help the child develop coordination, gross and fine motor skills, and an appreciation of the relationship between numbers and music later. Simple lyrics can help develop vocabulary, linguistic, and cognitive skills. Music is a universal language. Beyond supporting childhood development, good music can foster inner peace. Some classical music envelops the soul in a way that soothe and can be part of a resilient mindset. 

Toddlers can master the musical skills of recognizing high and low pitches, notes moving up down (the word sela in Psalms means an ascending scale on a stringed instrument), and cadence and tone patterns. The child can learn to recognize the spiritual power of the beautiful and sublime through the pitch, tone, cadences, and learning by ear (i.e., the Suzuki method).

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With the many repositories of songs available online (for example, the YIVO Sound Archive), parents can spice things up with songs in many languages. Yiddish songs like אויפן פריפעטשיק‎, transliterated Oyfn, offer not only wonderful music, but substantive content, and Jewish values can be imparted with Uncle Moshe’s songs.

Here are some examples of Hebrew songs:

To end on a personal note, one day, without prompting, my daughter sat down at the xylophone and played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” while singing in perfect melody in Hebrew. She had learned and applied the concepts on her own or observed them when we often sing and play our simple songs together. It was powerful.

This article was contributed by David B. Levy, Chief Librarian at the Lander College for Women