Crowdsourcing Shabbat Sermons

Crowdsourcing July 18 Sermon

For this summer’s sermons, we’d like to incorporate your perspectives. The
clergy will pose a question at the beginning of each week. Your
responses to the question will help inform the sermon for that week.

Please respond to the question for Friday July 18: “What song or piece of music (secular or religious) makes you think differently or think deeply?”

26 Responses to Crowdsourcing Shabbat Sermons

  1. Jerry Bonn says:

    The American popular music of 1925-1965 is full of joy and wisdom about life and love. One might think that its largely Jewish contributors were in a sense expressing their love for a free land. It is sad that young people are by and largely unaware of it.

    In my opinion its lyrics are almost as rich a source of wisdom about living for people of my generation as Shakespeare is for the Brits.

  2. Joanne Lazar Gotto says:

    When I sing Hashivenu I am reminded of my B’Nei Mitzvah 13 group and how my friend Stef Zeis and I sang this song as our part of the service. Singing this song and concentrating on the what the words meant was the beginning of my singing spiritual music in public without fear. After that experience I sang at my son Ethan’s Bar Mitzvah and later auditioned (and got into) Nashirah: The Jewish Chorale of Greater Philadelphia.

  3. docbzf says:

    Sunrise , Sunset
    “Sunrise , Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof” always brings tears to my eyes.
    I cry because of the message of my mortality . . and the mortality of all those whom I love .
    I become mindful that Life is a brief bittersweet experience.
    Life : bittersweet. Bitter by disappointments and pain .. yet incredibly sweet because I (we ) got to live in the first place .
    The ultimate paradox : I ( we ) are going to die , and that makes us one of the Lucky Ones . Lucky in that we were born in the first place .
    Most people . . most people are already dead .
    Most people , theoretically , are Potential People , who never were born in the first place .
    What are the odds that any of us get born ? How can one begin to calculate the probability of the Gift of Life ?
    So I who write these words , and you who read these words,
    are truly the Lucky Ones .
    We never asked to be born ; yet here we are .
    Life is truly a miraculous gift .. bittersweet and unexpected .

    ” Sunrise , Sunset ” : my response to the inconceivable gift of life is endless gratitude .

    Baruch Atah Adonai . . .

  4. leftytowhead says:

    Being the grandchild of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, my musical tastes tend to gravitate to Vienna of the Romantic Period. Much as I love Bruckner, it’s Mahler, specifically his Symphony #2 – THE RESURRECTION – which elicits an emotional response from me. The last movement’s words and music flood me with emotion and this emotion also flowed from my late mother when I introduced her to this piece. I used it in my eulogy at her funeral. Mahler, the converted Jew, in many aspects never jettisoned his Jewish soul and even though much of the words of this section have a Christian vision, I feel the Jewish soul within me stir. The words (translated): “O believe, you were not born for nothing ! For nothing lived, suffered. What was created must perish,, what perished, rise again”. Our lives DO/MUST have meaning even if we don’t see “the reward” in this life. The music itself enhances my belief in a transcendence of existence. Had I not this belief, life indeed would be for nothing.

    Henry A. Seigel

    • docbzf says:

      ” enhance ” and ” transcend ” were your keywords that strike my emotional chords .
      ( not so with my atheist friends , who reduce human beings to electrochemical neural circuitry .)
      I agree that although we humans are made of Stuff ( atoms, molecules , cells , organs ) , STUFF IS NOT ENOUGH .
      We have Spirit .. we have Soul . Response to music is part of our mystery .

      • Bob says:

        As one of your atheist friends, I can attest to the many interesting discussions we’ve had regarding soul and spirit. I agree there is mystery, but the mystery (yet undiscovered) lies in how 100 billion neurons fire in concert to allow us to appreciate music. As my dear friend, I wish us both a genetic long life to have many more interesting discussions.

    • I love the image of a “flood” of emotion upon hearing a piece. That’s really what it feels like. Thanks, Henry!

  5. Bob Bierman says:

    For me, the saddest and most powerful popular, or if you rather, folk song is “The cat’s in the cradle” by Harry Chapin. It’s the story of a father who doesn’t have time for his son: “We’ll get together then son, I’m sure we’ll have a good time then”. The song ends with the man, now old and retired. When he calls his son and asks if they can get together, his son says: “My new job’s a hassle and my kid has the flu, but it was real nice talking to you Dad”. The father says”: “My boy grew up just like me”. I was a father when fathers were distant from their children and let mom mostly raise them. I worked two jobs to keep the family going. Fortunately, through luck and grace, my daughter and I have a pretty good relationship. However I envy the young fathers I see with their little ones at Synagogue. They are full time parents, there for their children, involved, committed and the good news is that their sons and daughters will grow up just like them.

  6. Susan Newell says:

    It is an interesting coincidence (or not so coincidental?) that as I was reading one of the climatic points of ‘The Golem and the Jinni’, the current choice for the RS book club, music of the synagogue resonated with Michael, the Golem’s husband; and brought to mind its personal significance for me as well.

    Michael, who has not been a practicing Jew for most of his adult life, in despair, is drawn back to his uncle’s old synagogue where the service has already begun, “… the men’s voices surging and falling…. They chanted the psalms and praises, and as always the rhythm fastened itself to his heartbeat…. He imagined himself at ninety… unable to remember anything except for the morning prayers. They were his deepest memories, his first music….”

    There was a period of time in my adolescence when I too strayed from synagogue for a number of years. Yet this particular excerpt reminded me of those younger years when I regularly attended morning services on Shabbat, sitting as only an antsy 13 year old girl might, during a two hour service honoring the newest friend who was becoming a Bar Mitzvah. There was one part of the service that ‘fastened itself to [my] heartbeat’. As the Torah was returned to the Ark, the cantor began: “Eitz chayim hi…” and when he got to “Hashivienu Adonai eilecha v’nashuvah, chadeish, chadeish yameinu, chadeish yameinu k’kedem’’ he sang with such power, and a wonderful harmony to the surging voices of the congregation, that even as a young girl, my heart felt full of emotion and I felt so happy to be a Jew.

    As I grew and moved away from my small town and went off to college and then to work, marriage, and various moves around the country as circumstances dictated, I ceased practicing my faith until we finally settled here in the Philadelphia area some 15+ years ago.

    Which brings me to Rodeph Shalom and how music once again drew me in to regular practice. Of course there are so many factors that make RS a uniquely special home but as a new congregant, it was the music that made me feel less the stranger and more a family member. My Hebrew reading was weak, the prayers a faint memory, but I remember driving home from services after the first few, humming the M’Shebeirach and the final benediction.

    And today, not only do I regularly participate with kavanah, but I now have the wonderful experience of praying side by side with my husband of almost 40 years, a joy we have only recently shared in the last couple of years as we are an interfaith couple. After a small sampling of some family ‘events’ at RS, Craig is not only a regular congregant, but we’ve both added to our joy of the music here as members of our congregational choir, so much so that neither of us can restrain ourselves from singing the final benediction along with Cantor Frankel!

    Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom.
    May you feel God’s Presence within you always, and may you find peace.

    Susan Newell

    • docbzf says:

      the Music . . . yes , the music is the magic , and the chanting becomes enchanting at Friday sunset services : our Jewish sing-along and poetry reading .
      We sing , we clap hands , . . turning back toward Our Ancestors, and turning forward to grow in soul .
      Both old and new connections are felt .
      The experience transcends Time and Space .

    • Music is the avenue back. It warms my heart and I identify completely. Thank you, Susan!

  7. Jeffrey Strauss- says:

    There are many tunes that I enjoy from our High Holiday and Shabbat services. Some selections of prayer are Shalom Rav and Hashkeveinu on Friday evening. Some high holiday melodies are very haunting. What moves me and makes me think most deeply, interestingly enough, is the closing benediction. It begins with “May G-d bless you and keep you”. Those words make me flash back to my Jewish roots and my Bar Mitzvah. I have the vivid memory of my parents holding their hands to my forehead, blessing me as the cantor and my parents recited that prayer. They were instilling upon me the preciousness of life, the joy of life, and the sacred blessing we are to our family and to the Jewish people. We too, are the responsible ones to pass on these same values and responsibilities. When I hear the prayer today, the recitation of it makes me very emotional as I flash back to my innocence at 13 and how proud my parents were in that moment of their lives. They carried out that sacred blessing which I keep very near and dear to my heart.

  8. Sarah Pepper says:

    In homage to Rabbi Kuhn’s Nashville roots, I would like to reference a 2008 country song that is important in our family. Our daughter, Quinn danced to it with her father when she became a bat mitzvah in February, and Alan quotes the lyrics to me anytime I am temporarily feeling overwhelmed with some minor crisis in daily life, rather than appreciating each special moment. The lyrics are a quick reminder that each day is to savor. This is the chorus to Chase Adkins’ song “You’re Gonna Miss This”:

    You’re gonna miss this
    You’re gonna want this back
    You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
    These Are Some Good Times
    So take a good look around
    You may not know it now
    But you’re gonna miss this

  9. Ben Zion, I have a brother like that. He’s culturally a Jew, but has zero spirituality.

    • Bob says:

      Henry, I have no idea if our Rabbis encourage or want discussion among us, but with all due respect your brother is a Jew, without modifiers, as are you, me, Ben Zion, and the rest of us who call RS home.

  10. Ethel Goldberg says:

    How can I name just one piece of music – religious or secular, popular or classical? As Cantor Frankel told us, different pieces of music at different times are part of the soundtrack of a life – my life,your life, the community’s life. But here are a few:
    A Vivaldi violin concerto which was the first “real”concerto my daughter learned to play, and which I hear occasionally on WRTI played by Perlman; Beethoven’s 9th – anytime I hear it; Pomp and Circumstance whenever I’m at a graduation; a Sousa march or God Bless America on a patriotic holiday; Here Come the Bride (gets me every time); Shema and Shehekianu at services; Les Mis and Phantom soundtracks; the Beatles and Brubeck; Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow (especially now that I know the Jewish history behind the song); We Shall Overcome and the Battle Hymn of the Republic; and last but not least my husband’s and my two songs, True Love from the movie High Society, and Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around.

    • leftytowhead says:

      I never said he wasn’t ! I just stated a fact. Of course he’s a Jew; Hitler could tell you that. The question becomes – What is Jew ? and that’s a LONG discussion.

    • Wonderful list, Ethel! Each one evokes different memories and particular feelings deep inside. Thank you!

  11. Bill Easley says:

    Mi Shebeirach and B’Yado by Debbie Friedman both move us. The former as comforting and the latter as spiritually bonding.

    We also love Debbie’s Latke Song as a fun family song for Hanukkah.

    I am also moved by Eilie Eilie, as a strengthening response to HaShoa and other conflicts.

    Bill Easley

  12. Dave Spear says:

    The Star Spangled Banner is mainly a war song, reflecting America’s continuing aggressiveness (industrial as well as violent).

    Contrast this with Hatikvah: “Our hope is not yet lost” which reflects the Jewish emphasis on seeking.

    Sad that America hasn’t converted our National Anthem to America The Beautiful which has, in the third verse, a lesson we badly need: “Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law”. .

    The music of the Fifties and before was almost totally about romantic love (She loves me, yeah yeah). This dramatically changed during the Sixties starting with Penny Lane (1967) where music reflected the wide diversity of life (“Slow down, you move too fast”).

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