What is the Reason? Promises-singing-prayers
Promises: Are there times when one should make a promise? If so, why? J.
Jewish law generally disapproves of promises. People are not always careful about keeping their promises and many promises provedifficult to keep. The exception is a promise made during a time of suffering. (Tosafot, Chullin 2a) This is based on Jacob’s promises in last week’s portion, Vayeitzei. The Midrash says that we learn from Jacob that we should make promises during times of trouble. The verse in Psalms (66:13) says, “I will come to Your house with offerings, I will pay all my promises that my lips expressed and my mouth spoke when I was suffering.” The Sefer Chasidim (#403) explains that the promises should reflect the specific problem that is confronting you. One should think that it is possible that the challenge is to force the person to deal with the specific issue about which he is making his promise.
Singing Prayers: Is it preferable to sing while praying? M.
The Ma’avor Yabok, (Siftei Chaim, chapter 31) wrote that there is a courtyard in the highest heavens that can only be opened with a song. The soul responds to song because it is accustomed to the songs of the Ministering Angels. The Sefer Chasidim (#158) encourages us to find songs that are appropriate for each prayer in order to stir our hearts and enhance our concentration. The Zohar (Volume 2, 93a) describes the ability of song to bring joy to the heart and soul. The Sefer HaChinuch (#384) in his explanation of the mitzvah of the trumpets describes the power of music and instruments to enhance our spirit while serving God. However, Maimonides, in the Guide for the Perplexed (Volume 3, Chapter 45), reminds us how easy it is to focus on the singing and its joy and lose sight of the meaning of the prayer.
It is preferable to sing our prayers, however, we must keep Maimonides’ warning in our minds, and make sure that we do not become so caught up in the singing that we forget the meaning of the prayer. I suggest an easy way to evaluate our singing: Does the tune match the message of the words? There are many happy psalms we sing to sad tunes and vice versa.