If music be the food of love...

On Saturday night I had the incredible pleasure of watching Gary perform on guitar, supporting Roi Levi - formerly lead singer in one of our favourite Israeli bands - Shotei HaNevua (Fools Prophecy). While being incredibly proud and excited to hear Gary playing somewhere other than our spare room, I was also reminded of just how powerful music is as a tool to bring people together.

For me personally music has always been an important part of my spiritual life, and has signposted key moments of growth and understanding, or just helped me feel part of a community and something bigger - especially when surrounded by lots of people singing together - this has often been as part of a service, but, as on Saturday night, it's not always so formal!

It was a Friday night at Glastonbury Festival. I had just led a service in the ‘Shabbat tent’ I was helping to run. It had been great fun making soup and handing it out with challah to willing passers by, as well as leading a service full of singing out in the fields. I imagined, as we sang the psalms before welcoming Shabbat into our midst, that we were in the hills of the Galil, singing as the kabbalists of Tzfat are said to have done, out in the fields, as the sun set and Shabbat came to dwell among them. Singing together as a community was wonderful, despite (perhaps even because of) the curious stares we attracted from passing festival goers. Then my friends and I headed over to the Pyramid stage where Faithless were playing. Faithless played through sunset (when Shabbat officially begins) and while it wasn’t the most traditional form of worship, it was a very spiritual experience! We were about 6 rows from the front, caught up in the mass movement of the crowd, all singing for human unity and peace, and acknowledging the holiness in all of us. It was incredibly powerful to be in the midst of such a diverse and unified crowd of people. The music was fantastic, and served as a tool to unite, but it felt like something much bigger as the dancing was enhanced by the lyrics and ‘prayers’ for harmony. Moving and singing together is such a powerful experience because it brings totally diverse people into the same space; whatever their own spirituality, beliefs, theology, the music unites, whether it is in an intimate service, a basement gig, or a stadium performance, that experience of shared music and movement is in some sense spirtitual. I don't know if God counts it as worship, but it works for me!

It was partly for this reason that I had a bracelet made as a gift to myself before my ordination. Inscribed on it in Hebrew are the words of Psalm 100:2 "Worship the Eternal with joy, come before God with gladness". This bracelet reminds me of my original motives for becoming a Rabbi - to bring joy and gladness into people's Judaism. But it also reminds me of the power that music holds for me religiously and spiritually. When we all raise our voices together in harmony, it is a powerful statement of togetherness. This has happened at services, but it also happens through the unifying power of music in other spaces.

The following links to a brilliant scene from the film Baraka (the second video on the page) http://afan.uk.net/stuff/theme/ritual/baraka-film It expresses something of the power of unity in music and dance, which at AFAN we have compared with the Faithless experience. Sometimes the spiritual is found in surprising spaces!

(This blog has been brought to you through a vague haze of flu, so apologies if it is mildly incoherent!)


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