Archive for 2023

Hatikvah: A Medicine Melody

Monday, November 20th, 2023

Dear Friends:

Music heals the heart.

Last night, I went to a Jewish Gathering called “Here O Israel, Songs in Solidarity.” At the end of the night, a video was shown with members of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) singing Hatikvah. The video reminded me of a talk I gave for a gathering of Music Therapists about  Hatikvah and the healing power of music which I share below.

The talk occurred (over Zoom) on May 17, 2021, during the Pandemic and it also coincided with a period in which there was an outbreak of violence in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.  The gathering of Music Therapists was hosted by The Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at NYC’s Mount Sinai hospital. The main presenter was the great artist Jon Batiste. The topic of the event was: Social Music: Gathering Humanity Through Song & Sound. I had been invited by the Director of center, my dear friend Dr. Joanne Loewy, to talk about how the song Hatikvah has contributed to the healing from trauma of the Jewish people. (If you are interested, you can hear my talk in full at the bottom of this post.)

The flier stated: From the roots of slavery to current-day rallies, injustices have plagued ‘civilized’ communities since the beginning of time. Laments of rage have led to music that have fostered expressions of injustice, highlighting paths toward lasting legacies. Melodious jubilees and sorrow songs, formulate many of today’s familiar spirituals. From the underground to the picket line, from farce to parody, from rogue to rap, music harbors resilience.

Here’s what I said:


Where is Eyn Sof?

Monday, August 14th, 2023

Shalom! In the first of his 1992 Germantown, PA lectures on Kabbalah, I asked the following question. Reb Zalman’s answer follows:

Seth: Dear Reb Zalman, in this lecture, I hear you mapping the tradition onto  modern cosmology and coming up with very rich imagery. But where is Eyn Sof in space time as we imagine it? Before the Copernican revolution, or at some such time when we felt ourselves locked here on the earth and looking in the sky, we saw a kind of ceiling. Reading Bereishit, we could think that creation was light and water up there. Was the concept of Eyn Sof tied to the Copernican revolution? Did Eyn Od come in with the Kabbalists? Given our current model for the universe, Space/Time and Quantum physics, etc., as one sends one’s imagination to the ends of the universe, where is Eyn Sof?

Reb Zalman: Let me say this. I’m excited about the challenge of the update. I see in Kabbalah a software for god-ing, (if I were to use those terms).

I want to have some connection with God. If I treat if as the picture of the old guy sitting in the sky saying all those no-nos and punishing all the bad guys, etc., that’s shattered for us; Auschwitz shattered this once and for all.

So then the question is: “All right, then how do we continue to be Jews?” So, it is like needing an update on the software.


Enlarging our Jewishness

Wednesday, April 5th, 2023

The University of Colorado Boulder hosts some wonderful oral histories which I’ve been going through and I’m sharing here a transcription excerpt from the interview with Avi Dolgin. You can listen to the whole interview by clicking here, then searching for the “Avi Dolgin Interview” and clicking the Access URL. Here’s what he says:


I remember Zalman saying that he was a Jewish practitioner of the Universal Religion. The thing I came to really value and appreciate in my connection with Zalman was all the other spiritual paths that were around us.

He would bring into a course on Jewish thought, Buddhist teachings. He would talk about how we saw things one way, how Islam saw it in a parallel way, (although maybe Islam had a better take on it than we did). He certainly knew his Christianity well and one of the reasons I think Christians came and studied from him was that he was willing to learn from them. Elsewhere there are statements documenting his relationship with his Black Rebbe with whom he had studied much earlier, [Rev Howard Thurman obm].

So that was such a wonderful thing for me.

I was the guy who went to Hebrew School. I went to Jewish camps. I went to Camp Massad north of Winnipeg for a number of summers. I went to Camp Ramah down in Wisconsin for a number of summers. I was a Chazzan at the Junior Congregation. I had a good Conservative Jewish background, but through it all, … nobody else really looked at Judaism in a broader context of the world’s spiritual paths and religions.

Basically, insofar as Judaism was discussed with any others, it was from a chauvinist perspective of, “We are better!”