Monday, August 11, 2008

The Jewish Soul

Considering that we come from all over the world, speak a multitude of languages, believe a great many different things and choose to practice our beliefs quite differently (and that's just the Jews), how is it that I can so deeply identify my Jewish soul with something as simple as a melody?

I recently re-discovered a record (12" 33RPM), entitled "The Soul of Israel" in my lil collection. Many of the songs were hauntingly beautiful including the theme from Exodus, a movie set in British Mandate/Pre-State Israel, Kol Nidre (all our vows), a central piece of the Yom Kippur liturgy, and of course, Hatikvah.

Very few pieces of music have the effect of the aforementioned songs. I can always count on these cuts, and others like these, to send shivers up my spine.

These pieces exist in the part of my being that is totally irrational, without reason or doubt, without reality or pessimism. Filled with faith, superstition, and reverence, these songs resonate in my soul.

There are very few things which can totally capture my attention span. These songs not only capture my attention, they consume it entirely.

Interestingly, many of the cuts on this album are more recent additions to our national consciousness. Consider, for example, Hatikvah (a personal favorite, that, to this day, I can barely sing without choking up). Although the sentiments of the song are over 2000 years old, the words were written in the 1880's, and the melody is adapted from several folk sources.

This tradition of putting modern words or music to ancient feelings is also a part of Kol Nidrei, whose haunting melody Lewis Black often refers to as the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock movies. Even though no two synagogues or congregations will ever sing Kol Nidrei the same note-for-note, the integrity of the piece remains.

As secularized or assimilated as we may become, for many of us we cannot shake this connection to this music, and through it, to a deeper message and desire.

שִׁמְעוּ אַחַי בְּאַרְצוֹת נוּדִי
,אֶת קוֹל אַחַד חוֹזֵינוּ
כּי רַק עִם אַחֲרוֹן הַיְּהוּדִי
!גַּם אַחֲרִית תִּקְוָתֵנוּ

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