Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

For Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Birthday

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

As yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of the great Leonard Bernstein (a’h), I am sharing this link to his December 1989 performance of Candide:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMIzHnyuiNY

Bernstein was a “Hasid” in the sense that he helped many of us through his art and his genius and his struggles with Emunah / Faith. Please read his opening remarks, transcribed below, from this wonderful performance:

Surprise!

My dear friends, I hear you thinking, “Here comes the old professor to lecture us again!” But I promise to be brief and only [speak] by way of introduction.

The reason I feel I should say a few words… , that I ought to say something, is that for more than thirty years, (thirty-five years to be exact), people have asked me, “Why Candide; whither and whence Candide?” And I thought I might answer a little more clearly by speaking not only as the composer of this work, but as an every-day observer of history – like anyone here – and particularly of that period of history known as “The Age of Enlightenment”, roughly the eighteenth century, which was the century in which Voltaire lived, wrote, and in which he had extraordinary influence.

His masterpiece was a tough, skinny little novella, called “Candide” which inspired the playwright Lilian Helman and me to have a bash at it musically.

Voltaire’s book was actually entitled, “Candide or Optimism,” it being a viciously satirical attack on a prevalent philosophical system known as “Optimism” which was based on the rather indigestible writings of a certain Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and popularized by our own beloved Alexander Pope.

For example, in this great line from his “Essay on Man”:

“One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”

Now according to Leibniz, whose ideas Pope was lyricizing, if we believe in a Creator, then He must be a GOOD Creator, and the greatest of all possible Creators and therefore could have created only the best of all possible worlds; in other words, everything that is, is right.

Granted that in this world the innocent are mindlessly slaughtered and that crime mostly goes unpunished, and that there is disease and death and poverty but, if we could only see the whole picture, the divine, universal plan, then we would understand that whatever happens is for the best!

Thus spake Leibniz.

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A Lifebelt for Doubt in Faith

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Excerpts taken from interview with Reb Zalman z’l by Daniel Epstein. You can see the whole interview by clicking here. (The video appears as part of a YouTube Channel called, “Portraits in Faith“) [NOTE: Edited by Seth Fishman]

D: What is your earliest memory of faith or this idea that there is a God?

Reb Zalman: This is so hard to get to because there is a level in which it is so deep. I am reminded of the well-known story of the child who is around two years old when they brought home his newborn brother. And the parents overhear in the intercom as he is saying, “Please tell me about God. I’m beginning to forget!”

So this is a very deep thing because whenever you get to trying to describe a place of deep insight… There used to be a television program with a big wheel that’s a door and you entered into another world through it, [“the Time Tunnel”], and I could sort of see the center of the Mandala through which I have to walk [to access this place], and there are memories that are not quite up in sharp relief.

So I can’t tell you about that earliest memory because that’s what stumped me. But if you say an early memory:

  • To be with my Papa under the Tallis when he is davening and he would sort of hug me – that was such a moment, a recognition that the universe is a good universe; that I’m at home.
  • Seeing my mother light candles as a child; knowing that she was talking to someone who really was there – that was an important thing; it made me feel that I could also talk to God.

And sometimes, when my aunt didn’t let me play with my cousin, I would get back on the staircase and talk to God saying how unfair it is; but it was a very real thing.

As a child I would walk by a little side-chapel in a big church and the ladies would be lighting candles and standing like my Mama did on Shabbos. And Papa would take me to shul with the men. So I had this notion that women were Catholic and men were Jewish.

This is childish but there was something very special about that, that when people are praying, this thing, i.e. to be able to talk to God, is important.

Once I looked under the tallis when Papa had just finished leading a Rosh HashannahYom Kippur service and I saw tears in his eyes and said:

Papa warum weinst du” / why are you crying?

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