A famous nickname of the Jewish people is the People of the Book. Study has always played a central role in our people’s history. For generations we were taught: “Turn it over again and again. Keep learning anew. New insights are waiting to be discovered.”
Just as study has kept the Jewish people alive, its collective soul has been continually nourished throughout our history by song and music. At times heartfelt prayer and song could surpass study.
There is a famous story of a shepherd boy poorly raggedly dressed who arrives late to the Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement prayer service. Quietly he takes his place at the back of the synagogue. Of course he is noticed and looked down upon by some of the congregants. The service was nearing its end and the Rabbi was praying fervently that his congregation’s prayers would be accepted. But for some reason he was worried that this year’s prayers were not sufficient. At that moment the shepherd boy began to sing. His own special prayer and melody rose above the prayers of the congregation. Some members almost ran immediately to the shepherd boy to remove him from the synagogue. They were outraged at his chutzpa, nerve, in their minds to disturb their service. But his prayer and song became so intense that no one dared to remove him from the synagogue. The Rabbi stopped his own prayers and nodded to his congregants to remain still. The shepherd boy’s heartfelt prayer rose higher and higher. Now the Rabbi knew that his congregations prayers would finally be accepted this Yom Kippur.
One can go as far back to King David, himself a former shepherd, and his prolific Psalms or to modern songwriters as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Noa, and uncountable classical, klezmer and folk musicians Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Giora Feidman, to realize how music has kept the Jewish people going throughout the ages. Perhaps that is why often in this book I wished that it could sing. Many songs and prayers came to me while writing and said, “I fit in here”. The least I could do is include a list for the reader with references to these songs and prayers that correspond with chapters of this book. With some help from the Internet most of these references can be found. Many of the short Hebrew prayers and songs are very suitable as daily meditation texts.
Beginning with the Introduction there is a beautiful song of Shlomo Bar and the Natural Gathering entitled Kfar Todra, the village of Todra. It describes the tradition of five year old Moroccan Jewish children adorned with crowns of flowers on their heads being brought to the synagogue. There they will write their first Hebrew letters in honey and taste how sweet they are.
The English translation can be found on the site of Hebrew Songs.com
Download the full music guide here.