I cannot remember if I was in Kindergarten or the First Grade when I learned the alphabet song. I just remember how much I loved singing it. There was a way that its meter and melody just made sense to me and of course how it led to teaching me the 22 letters in the english alphabet. Yes, I actually did just write “22”… I am aware that there are 26 letters in our alphabet so don’t jump to the “post comment” tab just yet…when I was a child, I forgot 4 of the letters and here is why…

What caused this problem revolved around the portion: “L-M-N-O”. After many moons of singing the alphabet song,  the letters “L-M-N-O” started blending together because of its natural rhythm. This constructed an ungodly super letter commonly known as “Ellamenno”. Ellamenno was both a consonant and a vowel. It was the king of the letters. It sat enthroned with “P” at its right hand, and it ruled with a serif fist. Ellamenno was the letter that heralded the falling action of the song almost prophetically,”QRS, TUV, WX, Y-&-Z” ….

I was not aware of my mistake right off the bat…I knew how the song was taught to me, and thats how I sang it.. But soon I forgot L,M,N and O. When we had tests on the Alphabet, I would actually write out “Ellamenno” after “K”. After such a test, I of course would get a paper returned to me with one blood-red tally mark that beheaded my Letter King.

Indeed, there was and is nothing wrong with using a song to help a child or any student memorize something. There is a problem, however, when that child forgets to focus on what is being memorized and for what use it is being memorized. The same problem takes root when we, as Christians or Jews, encounter the habitual or traditional in worship. Many people, particularly some Christians, find it hard to consider that G-d desires anything habitual when worshipping Him. In fact, many translate Jesus of Nazareth’s statement to his followers to pray without using vain repetition, as Him charging that all repetition is vain and rendered useless in Spiritual life (Matt 6:5-8). G-d has chosen many throughout the history of Israel and the Church, to teach us His song, and He has done so in a habitual manner. His song says things like He is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). His song says that He would like us to be one (John 17:20-23)… and so much more. The Hebrew word that is used for one in Deuteronomy 6:4 also known as the Shema, which a Jew says day and night in prayer, is Echad. Echad, translated, has a closer meaning to a unified whole rather than one in the numerical sense of the word. In english “one” can have multiple connotations but the Hebrew is much more specific….and being that Jesus spoke His era’s vernacular when He was on the Earth, that being Aramaic, an ancient dialect of Hebrew, it is safe to say that He used the same word elchad when He prayed for His Church’s oneness.

Many Jews and Christians out there know exactly at what point in time they first heard the Shema or that passage in the Gospel according to John, but because they kept singing the same song and not applying it to their spirituality, they have lost sight of the kind of oneness that G-d claims to be and the kind of oneness that He desires for us in response of Him. This does not disprove traditional worship, it disproves vain tradition. You can sing, and sing, and sing, and sing some more, but unless you meditate on the letters and intricacies of it all you miss out on the pure beauty of the whole. Tradition and ritual are intended to make us echad as our G-d is echad. But they divide us when we  focus too much on the melody and not the composition.

Now I know my ABC’s, next time won’t you sing with me?

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