“Be Like the Bird” is a simple, exquisite song about the power of faith to bear us up, even when we lose the sense of a solid foundation beneath us.
At the end of a shiva service, my friend, Rabbi Pam Wax, in mourning after her brother Howard’s death by suicide, taught us a version of this song that she sings to herself to help keep her sense of faith alive. The words are from a poem by the great French author Victor Hugo; the music is by American choral composer Abbie Betinis. Betinis composed the music for the poem as a family Christmas Carol (as you can read in the video), and it also grew out of her own journey as a cancer survivor. I learned the song at a Jewish memorial service, sung by a rabbi. It truly transcends religious boundaries.
Listen to the end for a musical surprise.
Be like the bird that pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her. . .and sings, knowing she hath wings.
Soyez comme l’oiseau, posé pour un instant
Sur des rameaux trop frêles,
Qui sent ployer la branche et qui chante pourtant,
Sachant qu’il a des ailes!
–from a poem by Victor Hugo
Learn more about the poem.
How moving to learn this song and its metaphor of wings of faith, while working on the Gateway of Wings.