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The Music of our Souls

01/11/2017 10:27:57 AM

Jan11

As most of you know, I am pretty much tone deaf. I do not know if this is the way I was from birth or if it is the result of several childhood ear surgeries that left lots of scar tissue. Yet, I assure you that there is a big difference between being tone deaf and unable to appreciate music. Music is the language of the soul and though I may not be able to distinguish individual notes and often cannot pick out a slightly bad note, I am deeply moved by the magnificent music of our tradition.

Music has two important components. The lyrics speak to our intellect. They satisfy the mind’s need for connection to the words, thoughts and traditions of our amazing heritage. Through the lyrics we learn, wrestle and contemplate the texts that our people have exalted for centuries. Without satisfying the mind’s need for nourishment, the soul has a harder time relating to the moving harmonies.

Since the earliest of time humanity has recognized the gift of music. Whether it was simply the voice stringing notes together, or drums and later more complex instruments, societies have always desired the richness of a musical tradition. In ancient Judaism, singers would stand on both sides of the Temple steps and antiphonally sing Psalms as worshippers mounted to the platform. With great joy musicians praised God’s greatness and the favor that the people felt they had received. Instruments of many kinds were a part of their lives, but we know especially of the beautiful harps.

In many ways human nature does not change; it only becomes more refined. This is certainly the case with music. So many genres have been created over time – opera, symphonies, choral, folk, pop, rock, religious, secular, and the list goes on. The complexity of the notes reach deep into our souls and we find ourselves responding in remarkable ways. We are calmed, excited, energized, or sense deep beauty. With music we respond from the gut; from the depths of our being.

It is here that true prayer resides. Only a small part of prayer is actually in the head; real prayer stirs us at a much deeper level. The chants of our ancestors, the music of our tradition, the new tunes of our composers lead us to a greater and more fulfilling prayer experience.

We are instructed to “sing a new song to God”. God does not want or need this new song but we do!

Wed, January 23 2019 17 Sh'vat 5779