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The Song of the Shepherd Boy

The Song of the Shepherd Boy

Painting by Alex Levin (
Painting by Alex Levin (

The men are bent over books and swaying, their soft murmuring filling the uneasy silence. Long white shawls cover their faces and whirl about as they sway; back and forth, back and forth, like tall wheat stalks waving in the wind. The chant, now more audible, seems to absorb the swaying men; they appear transported, as though they are not really here, as though I am alone not just in my heart, but also in this room.

I wander along the pews of the synagogue, wary of its strange rhythm. The tall bookshelves glare at me, dwarfing the room about me, and I feel even smaller.

There is a song in my heart, but I don’t know how to sing it.

I walk slowly to the back of the synagogue and turn to face the front, where the holy Ark stands tall and magnificent. Instinct lifts my hands, but my fingers close in disappointment: I can’t reach it; it is too far.

There is a song in my heart, but I don’t know how to sing it.

There is a prayer in my eyes, if You could only see it.

The chanting now mixes with the stale air, a thin film of dust swimming in the dim light. The synagogue grows eerie. I try to understand the words of the swaying men, but I have never heard their language.

I lift my eyes toward the windows of the synagogue, looking for heaven, looking for You. Afternoon clouds drift in the distance, and the sunshine splashes against my face; I know You can hear me. I am different from the swaying men, but not any different than how You created me. I cannot read the holy books, and cannot sing their songs, but I have my own song, and I will sing it for You.

The song in my heart begins to sing, and my voice surrenders to its calling. I may be different from my fellow man, but that is how I connect with you; in my own way I sing to You, like no one else can, like only I can.

I am singing now, whistling the only tune I know. It is all I have, dear G‑d, but it is for You. My body is swaying, as a tiny flame hopping about a fire. My soul is dancing, and I dance along with it—me, wrapped in my shepherd’s caftan, me, just a small shepherd boy.

I am no longer alone; I can hear You in my harmony.

I am the shepherd boy, praying among the swaying men.

This article is a creative interpretation of this story.

Srolic Barber, of Sydney, Australia, has engaged in rabbinical studies and community activism in many places throughout the world, most recently for two years in Caracas, Venezuela.
Artwork by Alex Levin. Ukrainian-born Alex Levin lives in Rishon Lezion, Israel. His works, many of which depict Jewish life in Israel, have been admired by Israeli presidents and international celebrities. Alex has received the Award for the Contribution to the Judaic Art from the Knesset. Paintings can be viewed and purchased at
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Anonymous Cape Town September 13, 2013

Each Heart May the human hearts never stop singing inwardly. Heaven sees and hears us all. Reply

Gerard September 12, 2013

Thanks A great upliftment , it's the heart that matters most. Thks Reply

pnina Tasmania September 12, 2013

Thank you Srolic, for your beautiful writing that touches the neshama.
Gmar Chasima tova. Reply

Ari ohio September 11, 2013

Well done Srolic Wow, wonderful interpretation of a classic story! Reply

Larry Van Etten September 11, 2013

....thank heart is lifted. I feel more worthy to offer up what little I have and understand. Reply

Shabnam Roshan Ara India September 11, 2013

The Song of the Shepherd Boy. Wonderful Song!

We can make our God happy with our sincerity and love only. Whether we are in or outside our prayer zones, our feelings should be pure. God eliminates the distances, listens and rewards.. Reply

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