“Song” by Abraham Joshua Heschel:
In no other act does man experience so often the disparity between the desire for expression and the means of expression as in prayer. The inadequacy of the means at our disposal appears so tangible, so tragic, that one feels it a grace to be able to give oneself up to music, to a tone, to a song, to a chant. The wave of a song carries the soul to heights which utterable meanings can never reach. Such abandonment is no escape…For the world of unutterable meanings is the nursery of the soul, the cradle of all our ideas. It is not an escape but a return to one’s origins.
-I Asked for Wonder, pg. 55
Some of my favorite moments with you, our wonderful TE family, occur in hallways or grocery stores or coffee shops, where you and I run in to each other in our average day to day tasks. Sometimes we will inevitably move towards the subject of music, song, or a melody or service that touched you. Some of you share with me that you were able to feel transported during a service-Shabbat, high holy days, or concert, by a melody, a tone, a liturgical setting. When these moments occur between us, I feel extraordinarily humbled. Those moments of transportation are moments of transcendence. They are moments of connection between you and me and our dynamic clergy team, between congregant to congregant, between human and divine. I am not the cause nor the catalyst for those moments; to the contrary; it is the melodies that bring us together in holiness, moved to another world. This is the place where words fade and fail, and we as a congregation are able to give ourselves and our souls over to the inexpressible, and connect to something that is sacred.
This is the true power of music. Heschel illumines that these sacred moments for us are like a wave of a song. Heschel posits that the heights these waves reach are a place that words can never reach, the only way for us to move to that place of holiness is through a melody, a tune, or a chant. This world, where only music exists and words do not is, according to Heschel, our nursery, or cradle. This is where we are truly held, this is where we are at our most authentic, at our core.
We at TE are lovers of music! All kinds, from sacred Mi Sinai melodies, tunes we have grown up with, built our synagogue with, to the more adventurous and contemporary. This weekend we are blessed to have with us Danny Maseng. Danny is a dynamic and extraordinary Hazzan, performing artist, and composer. We already sing several beloved tunes written by Danny, such as Mah Tovu and Elohai N’tzor.
With our love of music as our cornerstone and foundation at TE, here then is our mission and vision: Inspiring and engaging congregants of all ages both within our synagogue walls, into the greater community, then bringing that greater community back in to TE. Temple Emanu-El is THE address for Jewish music. From our preschool music, our k-2 tefillah and music on Sundays, Zimria-our Hebrew through song Junior Choir, to our teens who join me throughout the year in various instrumental and vocal capacities, our adult guitar band, our adult choir Shir HaEsh- song of fire, we are building a fierce and beautiful, strong culture of music. We are only at the beginning. Our goal is to bring in more artists such as Danny Maseng, to expand our repertoire and music programs and activities at TE, to explore the Jewish community and music of Atlanta, and beyond. Getting there takes your support. Reaching these new heights as described by Heschel takes your presence, your action, your resources, your core and ideas to bring this mission and vision to fruition.
There is a true calling to this work, which I know that all of us feel. Together our energy and ideas, our passion and love for Jewish music can take us to the place where words fade away, and only holiness exists. Wishing all of you a Shabbat Shalom u’Vrucha v’Shira: a Shabbat filled with peace, blessings, and song.
Follow me at Temple Emanu-El of Greater Atlanta: www.templeemanuelatlanta.com