If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week, Sophie Lipton, Jeneration fieldworker, selects ‘All that Jazz’ by Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman on Desert island texts
Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman discusses creatively that prayer and music are synonymous.
For me, Judaism without music is like a guitar without strings. Music is at the apex of my Jewish identity and this has taken form in an array of ways. With the RSY-Netzer youth movement, singing on camp was a powerful, reflective experience as it echoed a real strong sense of community.
If we dig beneath the surface, we can also see Rabbi Weiman-Kelman uses similes to express that prayer is like jazz. For example, he states: “Praying is like playing jazz… You can play alone – but the exciting things happen in ‘sessions’ with other musicians”. It is beautifully suggested that prayer can be self reflective, yet praying in a kehilla, a community, may sound like a symphony.
The former is comforting if I were actually trapped on a desert island, but it is the latter part of this statement I want to discuss. As a long-standing member of Kol Chai synagogue, community has always been extremely important.
When the community comes together for a service, shul could perhaps be described as an orchestra, where everyone adds his or her own unique melody.
As a graduate with a degree in Middle Eastern studies, I cannot separate this line without mentioning the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, where Israeli musicians join Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian and other Mid-Eastern performers in elegant symphonies.
The orchestra is powerful because it puts aside all the artists’ political differences, letting them focus on music, where we are left with a harmonious ensemble.
The West-Eastern Divan conveys that music could act as the language of peace, a romantic and optimistic approach to Mid-East politics. Whether praying solo or praying in a community, this passage gives hope that prayer and music can create harmony, however forté (loud) or piano (quiet).