Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Song, Faith, and Imagination
Through singing we access and activate the power of imagination, which connects the brain and higher part of our soul, with the body and the lower aspects of our souls. Every wisdom in the world has its own niggun (melody), which is actually the root source of that wisdom. Even heresy has its own melody, from where it is drawn. The holy melody of the true tzaddik can lift up lost souls, even those that have fallen into seemingly unredeemable places of disconnection and disharmony.
Today at Tzafnat, the midrasha in Tzfat where I have been giving a weekly class for the past 8 years, we sang "Peaceful Waters", my version of Psalm 23, for the healing of Rivka bat Yael, a precious four-year-old who fell from her rooftop while climbing up with her father to watch the Independence Day fireworks a few weeks ago. We are praying and hoping for her miraculous recovery.
One of the girls mentioned that singing is a remedy for fear. I remember when this song, Peaceful Waters, came down, when sudden fear gripped me as I walked home late on a dark night. I felt how my imagination starting to run on its own, dragging me towards fears that were so absurd as to be funny. I started to sing this song, and immediately was filled with security and a feeling of joy. By singing, we activate the power of the imagination. By wanting closeness with our Creator, we activate this imagination from the highest level, bringing us to a place of clarity and purity. Mount Amana from the Song of Songs is like Emuna (faith), the high place to which we are drawn when our song is born in longing for connection with G-d.
When we close our eyes, (atzom in Hebrew), we connect to our inner strength (otzma in Hebrew), which connects us to our souls, our true essence (etzem in Hebrew). All of these Hebrew words have the same root. By close our eyes, we make space for the harmony of infinite interconnection, connecting to the truth of Knesset Yisrael, the soul of Israel, and the essential oneness of all of Hashem's creation. This is in contrast to our vision, which can lead us towards the delusion that there is anything separate from G-d (heresy). The word for eye (ayin) in Hebrew, represents the number 70, the Jewish symbol for multiplicity. (There are 70 original language, nations, ways of viewing the Torah). Our hearing, on the other hand, allows for us to reveal the oneness in multiplicity, and to remember that all of Israel is one interconnected soul. Hashem, save us from the illusion of separateness!
Singing brings joy because the 10 kinds of melody are sourced in ten kinds of joy. Joy is like fire, warming, transforming, mesmerizing. Anger is also like fire, warming (burning), transforming (destroying), mesmerizing (controlling). We can transform our anger into joy through singing, through tapping in to the roots of this fire and lifting it up to the highest place of joyful connection and unification. When I sing, I reveal the oneness in multiplicity. Joy and sorrow, body and soul, fire and water, all find space and expression in the vastness of song, which draws together lost pieces of who I am, and lost sparks of holiness, and brings them as an offering to G-d. On the highest level it can bring down prophecy.
We sang "Ana Hashem", by the Piesetzner Rebbe. "Please G-d, accept my longing to praise You as if it were the songs of the prophets, and my the wild beating of my heart be a sweet to you as the songs of the Levites in the Temple." In days of old, someone who was sick or in emotional or spiritual pain would visit the local prophet or prophetess. He or she would look into the soul of the one needing healing and tell her the root of her problem, prescribing the proper soul medicine for her recovery. Connecting to this knowledge (prophecy) was facilitated through song. We can see what a fallen place we have come to! Today the prophets have been replaced by doctors, who easily fall into the trap of seeing themselves as mini-g-ds (may the compassionate one have mercy!), and the patients hope to be fixed by the external actions of medicines without looking to their soul for the root of the problem. In the coming times, the hospitals will be replaced by "Batay Nigun" (healing song-houses), and prophet will perscribe the song that can heal each and every soul.
The Levites in the temple worked together with the Cohen (Priest) to heal the broken souls of Am Yisrael. Someone who had sinned would bring his sacrifice. The Cohen would look within and see what had happened to this soul to cause it harm. He would signal the Levites to play a song to break his heart. He would watch closely, to make sure that the proper amount was given, and not too much. Just before the person was broken beyond repair, he would signal a change, and their song would become one of joy. The person bringing the sacrifice would also be filled with joy, true joy. The joy of healing and recovery. The joy of repentance and redemption. The joy of brokenness and wholeness, the unification of opposites into a shifting kaleidoscope of revelation of Hashem's Oneness.
Based on teachings from Rebbe Nachman, Rabbi Avraham Sutton, and the book "Kosher Niggun, Kosher Musician" by Gai-Tzvi Mintz, and the Rabbanit Yehudis Golshevsky.