Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Return of the Music

The first time I  felt an emotional connection to Judaism, at least that I remember, was through music. Kabbalas Shabbos and Seudah Shelisheet at Moshava, moved me at a time when nothing else Jewish did. During the year, I longingly looked forward to the first Shabbos of camp. The songs we sang still move me in a way that I can’t explain.

When I was 14 years old, we spent the summer in Israel. Saturday nights were the time to go up to Har Tzion, to a cave where we would listen to the Diaspora Yeshiva Band. I don’t remember the music, but I do remember how happy my father ob”m was each time.

I wake up. I’m in my bed. I hear my father whistling a Jewish tune as he prepares breakfast for my siblings and I.

When Rochie and I were dating, my parents got us tickets to hear Diaspora. Afterwards, Rochie wrote my parents a thank-you note. I don’t remember what it said. Only that it was filled with love and kindness

Rochie and I accidently discovered Zusha’s, probably the only mehadrin bar and grill in the world, and Chaim Dovid, who played there every Thursday night, by accident. His music touched us deeply, and I feel a touch of sadness each time I pass the empty lot where Zusha’s used to be.

The year my father died was the worst year of my life. I took the laws and customs of morning very seriously. I listened to no music the entire year. By the end of the year, I was 100 pounds overweight.

I am at a Moshav concert with a friend. People get up to dance. I try to join, but I just can’t let myself go. I’m too scared of what people might think.

While this summer has been amazing in so many ways, it’s been very intense and filled with sadness. With the kidnappings, two funerals and a shiva, and of course the war, I have shed more tears than at any time since I was a baby. By the time we arrived in Tzefat on Thursday night, I was on empty. Late that night I went across the street to the Ascent Center, where the most soulful music was being played on two violins, a banjo and a bongo, accompanied by the singing of a dear friend, in a cave-like room with an arched ceiling. There was no light other than whatever a few flickering candles could provide. I took it in as if it was oxygen. At one point, I stood up. I wasn’t dancing as much as I was moving gently to the music, as if I was one of the flames. The fear I once had was gone. All the sadness and tension poured out of me. The music had returned.

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