Comments on: Music in Judaism: In Search of the Tenth Song – Jewish Journal

Posted By on February 18, 2021

I spent a decade composing the music for the Warner Brothers TV Network. Here in Los Angeles, that means every time you watched a Channel 5 sports broadcast, a TV show promo or the Rose Parade, you heard my music in the background. But as great an experience as this was for a composer just out of college, I realized my heart was elsewhere.

Since the age of seven, I have heard music in my head new music, fully formed songs and lyrics. My passion is getting those songs developed, arranged, recorded and marketed. But in my mid-twenties, I started flirting with a new passion: Shabbat.

Many of my Westside friends had moved to Pico-Robertson, and I started getting Friday night invites. I was tapping into the deepest well of inspiration: God, Torah and community. Like many of my peers, my Jewish education ended shortly after reaching bar mitzvah age. But now I recognized I had a lot of catching up to do in my spirituality. My music, always the spokesperson for my subconscious mind, reflected this inner turmoil and bore fruit in the form of my first Jewish albums: Hineni, A Day in the Life and Across the River. I started touring synagogues instead of rock clubs, brushed up on my Hebrew and tried on those tefillin I hadnt worn since I was thirteen.

Soon, I was performing in over fifty cities a year. I became poignantly aware of the power of music in connecting audiences of various denominations and ages. And I learned that, for the Jewish People, religious life without music is unthinkable.

Jews see music as the catalyst of Creation. The Big Bang is summed up in the first line of Genesis, beginning with the word Breishit. According to the Dzikover Rebbe (Rabbi Yidele Horowitz, 1905-1989), Breishit can be rearranged to spell Shirat Aleph Beit, the song of the alphabet. In other words, every aspect of the universe is continuously sung into being.

Our Tanach (Bible) is replete with epic songs punctuating the narrative. Jubal, the inventor of the first instruments, is one of the key characters mentioned in the first ten generations of humankind. The patriarchs composed while in the fields with their livestock; Jewish tradition maintains King David was hearing songs as he composed his Psalms; our prophets required music to enter a transcendent realm and hear Gods voice; vast orchestras accompanied the service in the Temple.

When we sing our prayers, we transform our worship from lethargy to ecstasy, from stasis to action and commitment. The nusach (traditional melody) of prayer is so beautifully detailed that one could conceivably travel by time machine to any service in history and know if its a weekday, Shabbat or a holiday, if its morning, afternoon or evening and whether the congregation is Sephardic or Ashkenaz. Specific tropes even accompany the public reading of our Torah and prophetic writings, adding color and even commentary to the black and white text.

As I explored the origins of music in Judaism, I wondered about the origin of the music in me. How does my subconscious create a soundtrack for my dreams? Is it an amalgam of all the melodies I processed that day? Am I hearing remnants of biblical melodies in the ether? Maybe it is a combination of all of those things. For me, the new Jewish music I create from my head offers clarity of Gods loving presence: after all, King David is the source for engaging in shir chadash lAdonai (singing a new song for God). New music communicates vitality and excitement and keeps ritual from becoming stagnant.

the new Jewish music I create from my head offers clarity of Gods loving presence.

The Midrash describes ten primary songs featured in Tanach. Nine have already been sung such as Az Yashir, the spontaneous outpouring of prophetic music sung by the masses at the splitting of the Red Sea. We also have Moshe Rabbeinus final song, Haazinu, as well as songs by Devorah, Hannah and Kings David and Shlomo. One song has yet to be written, awaiting a future date when the redeemed ones leave exile. This is the Tenth Song for which we are yearning. I have a feeling its ready for download can you hear it yet?

It is a tremendous privilege to channel Gods music and share it. May God bless all of us with a holy life filled with sweetness and harmony. And may we soon merit singing the Tenth Song of Creation together in Jerusalem.

Sam Glaser is a performer, composer, producer and author in Los Angeles. He has released 25 albums of his music, heproduces music for various media in his Glaser Musicworks recording studio and his book The Joy of Judaism is an Amazonbestseller. Visit him online at Join Sam for a weekly uplifting hour of study every Wednesday night(7:30 pm PST, Zoom Meeting ID: 71646005392) for learners of all ages and levels of knowledge.

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