Monday, June 30. 2014
Sunday, June 29. 2014
The second day of Rosh Chodesh continues today, on Sunday. As we observe this minor holiday, we need to find ways to enable non-Jews to understand our religion and music is one of those ways. Here is my rendition of Hodu from the Hallel which uses some English and has a gospel feel. The melody is from the song by Livingston Taylor:
Friday, June 27. 2014
Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh coincide once or twice a year. It's not all that unusual, but when it happens I feel like there's a special confluence of cycles that implies a positive energy. A double blessing. This month we also have a two-day Rosh Chodesh (Shabbat and Sunday), so the celebration is extended. We recognize the physics of our world, the regularity of its cycles, and the beauty of time.
The song for today is Debbie Friedman's version of Hodu from Hallel: Hodu
Thursday, June 26. 2014
I try to read the news every day and it often saddens me. I am particularly disheartened when I am disappointed by groups or institutions that I expected to be the guardians of righteousness. No institution has been burdened with higher expectations than the United Nations, and no institution has been as much of a disappointment.
Growing up in and around New York City, I always saw the UN building as a monument to peace. I was proud that it was in NY. It represented hope for the future. In high school, I was active in the "model UN club" and I made it my business to know the positions of various countries in the Security Council, if not the entire plenary.
But the UN has failed so often to help those in need and has condemned the wrong players in the world drama. Have the peacekeeping forces kept peace? Has genocide been avoided? It has become nothing more than the public face of political alliances.
The song for today is my experiment with something less-than-beautiful. If Jewish music is to reflect the world, then sometimes it has to have an angry edge: Yitgadal
Wednesday, June 25. 2014
Sometimes the information sources of our lives converge and conspire to bring us a message. On Facebok, there have been a number of posts about music and memories. Music is another dimension of knowledge, another way to reach into our brains and access the storage of our lives. Yes, words and pictures do that also, but music has a power that transcends logic. On Quora, a site that I frequent with questions and answers, I saw the following definition of music:
...I think that a working definition of music for the purposes of this very universal question would be that it is an engagement with sound (both sounding and listening) and time, and it is difficult to imagine human experience without these. Even if one were to hypothetically scrape away all the cultural weights, the instruments, and the rituals that we today associate with music, how could one escape, for example, the sound of wind and rain, or the silence at a funeral, or the sense that time is "slower" when it is snowing outside? These are the fundamental experiences that music grows out of, and a world without them would simply be unrecognizable
And perhaps that is why music is so fundamental to Judaism: to connect to our experiences, the words must be sung.
Today I honor what would have been my parents' 64th anniversary with a song: Erev shel Shoshanim
Tuesday, June 24. 2014
We can't deal with the true variability of people! Truly, each person is unique, but we group them into categories so we can navigate the sea of ideas, emotions, and opportunities. But the groups we create are inherently faulty, and we are just lucky if the attributes we identify with a group happen to be accurate.
The media portrays "Jews" as a single group, but this is clearly wrong. When a Jew is needed in a movie they are usually portrayed like this:
Monday, June 23. 2014
The timing of the Presbyterian Church's decision to divest from industries in Israel, in support of the Palestinian cause, highlights the absurdity of the action. In the midst of a senseless kidnapping of innocent civilians, they are essentially supporting the kidnappers. Is there no consistency in their ethics?
It has been pointed out numerous times that the world's position against Israel is ridiculous when viewed against the policies of the other countries of the world. We need not limit ourselves to the Middle East: how does the world react to the Central African Republic? The Sudan? Zimbabwe? The plight of the indigenous peoples of Brazil? With the World Cup going on, I have not seen a single story about that - yet Israel finds itself on the front page!
See the article of February 28, 2014 :
along with the article in Spiegel Online August 2013.
My song for this Monday morning. a broken hallelujah (Jewish music?): Hallelujah
Sunday, June 22. 2014
Judaism has always had some tension between separation from the secular world and inclusion of the secular world. Those who fear assimilation and lack confidence in the strength of the religion seek to divorce themselves from all things non-Jewish. However, long ago our rabbis recognized the value of engaging in the secular world. Even the Vilna Gaon in the 18th century was well-versed in science, mathematics and secular studies. Moses Mendelson is well-known for his belief that one can be a Jew and live in the secular world. Both contrast greatly with the hasidim and the long-time belief in the separation of Jewish life from the secular world.
Today, many of us, comfortable in our Judaism, have no problem living in the secular world and integrating secular concerns into our Jewish life. Integrating is not assimilating. As the 2014 FIFA World Cup goes on, we see an easy melding of the fun of being a fan and the life of a Jew:
In Support of Mexico!
Our song for today is l'dor vador - sacred and secular
Friday, June 20. 2014
The end of the week is sometimes difficult. As I write this, I think, was the sixth day of Creation difficult? Was God tired when He created people? The concept of Shabbat was created for us, not for God or the natural processes of the universe. Rest is a part of action.
The saga of the kidnapped Israeli teens continues, and, as time passes, the prospect of finding them grows dimmer. In any calamity people look for the reason and the source, and when the direct source can't be found, we create scapegoats. Today in the Jerusalem Post: Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, published a letter saying that the abduction of the three missing boys last Thursday was the result of attacks on the religious status quo. The blame is within the Jewish community for the abductions! Just like it was our own fault for the destruction of the Temple, and for the Holocaust!
Perhaps there is some way in which our actions impact the harmony in the universe, but to attribute a direct cause and effect for all the bad that occurs just hurts our ability to withstand it. The time for introspection comes later, after the event has passed. Shabbat comes after Creation. Now, as the week ends, we can look back.
The song for today is one of my favorite renditions of the Mizmor Shir l'Yom haShabbat: Tov L'Hodot
Thursday, June 19. 2014
When we stand apart from the crowd, we become a target, a point of focus. Our speech, our words, our looks, our daily business, make a statement to the world and differentiate us. Sometimes this is what we want, while at other times our separation is forced upon us.
I marveled at the picture of Lionel Messi revealing his support for the return of the kidnapped teenagers (משפטים יפים ותמונות כל היום). A simple act of showing a shirt he's wearing with the phrase "bring back (the three)." Messi, one of the great football players of all time, already stands apart, but this might be more dangerous than taking FC Barcelona into Manchester.
And then I noticed that on this day in history, in 1269, Louis IX of France decreed that all Jews must wear a yellow badge. Whether we wanted to or not, our presence would make a statement and set us apart. The simple act of wearing a sign changes the other's perception of us. It forces us to live in fear of attack, and it forces us to be brave.
The song for today is the well-known setting of Rabbi Nachman's words: Kol HaOlam Kulo
Wednesday, June 18. 2014
I learned in physics that much of the behavior of physical systems is determined by boundary conditions. That is, what happens on the edges defines what happens in the middle also. I think we often lead our lives in the same way: the start of the week and the end of the week often determine what will occur in the middle of the week. Our waking, and our going to sleep often determine how our day will be. And here we are, Wednesday, the middle of the week.
I like to think that we can rebel against nature. Rather than have our week set in motion by the endpoints, perhaps we can create anew each day, each moment, so that we are open to radically new ideas and not simply following the path of the past or the expectations of the future. We are not bound by our boundaries.
A song for the middle of the week, reminding us of Shabbat, but remembering we need not be constrained by the old - my version of Hashkiveinu: Hashkiveinu mellow
Tuesday, June 17. 2014
The news today is filled with the plight of the three Israeli teenagers who have been kidnapped. We're still not sure who has abducted them - Netanyahu is sure it is Hamas, while Hamas continues to deny it. It doesn't really matter who has done it: we have a responsibility to stand up and say this won't be tolerated. How do we insure that terrorism is eliminated when it is so effective? Yes, it is effective, because we really do care about every single person who is harmed. It is only when we stop caring about people that terrorists and kidnappers will realize that their techniques are worthless. But when that happens, we have indeed lost our own humanity!
Tonight a vigil in solidarity for the teenagers, and to make a statement: this is not an Israeli problem, or a Jewish problem, it is a problem for every person who cares about the world.
A song for the vigil: L'ma'an Achai
Sunday, June 15. 2014
Friday, June 13. 2014
Is Shabbat the end of the week, or the beginning of the new week? It is clear from the Torah that it is the seventh day, the day after Creation, the day of rest after work. But, as the rabbis have noted in the liturgy, it is also the beginning of a new cycle. Thus, at mincha, we start reading the next parashah. By the end of Shabbat - particularly in the Summer, I'm ready to get out and start again.
Tonight at Shabbat Under the Stars we're going to try a slightly different arrangement, moving the instruments and leaders further into the congregation and having chairs behind, almost an "in the round" style. This should contribute to the unification of leaders and congregants.hashkiveinuv3slowwithbass.mp3
Thursday, June 12. 2014
I have finally made some changes to the website - and more are coming! The discussions (my daily blog) now appears on the front page, with minimal annoying visual graphics. You can comment on any entry, and I will approve the comment on that day.
I will be making further changes to make finding files easier for the b'nei mitzvah and I will be putting up more song files of my recordings.
Stay tuned for more High Holy Day resources!
This morning, at the Thursday minyan, we had a special treat - the Bar Mitzvah of David Poura. Normally a very introspective minyan, with the extended Poura family the Steinberg Chapel was alive with the sounds of daveners from 2 to 90 yrs.
A little later this morning, we'll continue with the discussion of the perceptions of Israel at the Coffee with the Cantor class. We'll also have a retrospective of the entire year and a look forward to next year.
Finally, with Shabbat around the corner, a reminder that tomorrow night we'll have Shabbat under the Stars with our "guitar Shabbat." Joshua Goodman will play his last Shabbat before he goes to camp, then off to Israel. The Kiddush on Shabbat will be sponsored in his honor by his loving parents.
Wednesday, June 11. 2014
Trying to be thankful for what we have...Gracias a la Vida
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