If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my posts sometimes veer into the secular. A large part of that is because that is the world I live in… I have been secular all my life, and as you know, am just now over a year into my journey of moving more into the religious, spiritual and non-secular worlds.
When I discuss the power of music or art, it is not as idol worship or a substitution for Hashem. Though I have said many times that seeing Bruce Springsteen live is as close to a religious experience as I have ever had, that was before traveling to Israel and being at the Kotel and having true “religious experiences.”
For me… now… there is just as much power in a moving Friday night service… Happy Minyan, I am looking right at you! The joy I feel, dancing and singing and praying is intense and emotional and so utterly potent.
There is just as much soul touching in a Shabbat meal shared with family and friends. The connection and “time-out” and shutting off and tuning in is palpable and so vital to our organs and our brain and our spirit.
There is just as much life-changing in an in-person or recorded (or podcast) class. Yes, I am giving you shout outs Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld, Rabbi Avi Rabin, Rabbi Shalom Denbo, Rabbi Noah Weinberg (of blessed memory) and David Sacks!
There is just as much connection with a higher power in our morning prayers and daily meditations.
An whether we are following Deepak Chopra or Aryeh Kaplan, there is SCIENTIFIC PROOF that actual meditation can physically change the brain for the positive… and have incredible and very real effects on our mind and our body.
I still say that live music, especially Springsteen shows, sets my soul on fire… in a most positive and enlightened way. I still say it is a spiritual thing… deeply spiritual… and an important thing… And I still believe there is room and must be room for both… Actually there must be room for a lot of things… but Jewish spirituality has become more and more important for me over the last year.
So… David Bowie passed away two days ago. Two days after his 69th birthday… and two days after releasing his 27th studio album.
His death came as a shock, mostly because unlike the modern celebrity, who films every aspect and minute and moment of their lives… he lived rather privately.
His death deeply saddened me, for the loss of an artist this important is a loss for the world… Music and art are common denominators that can act as ambassadors and bring people together.
Songs and expressions of love and life find similar ground for people from all walks of life… and make us realize, basically, we are the same.
Art brings order to chaos, and helps us understand and deal with the pain of life and living… loss and heart-break… love and desire.
For the main human need, I think… the most basic desire… is to connect with one’s self and each other… to love and be loved.
Bowie’s passing also hits me hard because I had never seen him live, a regret that will stay with me for a long time.
Regret and dealing with regret is a common human thing… but it can also be deeply Jewish, for it is Judaism that is teaching me how to live a more productive and spiritual life… how to contribute more and find my reason for living and creating… to help me find my true purpose. And yes, how to deal with past mistakes and regrets and move forward… to always be in the present… in the moment… and to share my light with the world.
Isn’t that what religion should do? Shouldn’t it be a guide on how to live a meaningful, ethical, moral, loving, kind, generous, giving and wonderful life?
And yet, you are probably now asking what David Bowie, a non-Jew, has to do with Judaism…
According to a Facebook post on The Israel Project:
“On Station to Station Bowie sings “Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth.” The line was called “perhaps the only usage of kabbalistic terminology in Hebrew ever by a major international pop singer.”
They continue by explaining: “Kether, or “the crown” is said to be the divine will or pure light, and Malkhuth, or kingship, the nurturing receptacle of that light.”
Was Bowie Jewish? No.
Many of us know that Madonna and Britney Spears “study” Kabbalah… and many of us dismiss that particular foray as superficial… celebrity and fame oriented.
But Kabbalah has so much amazing insight… true Kabbalah.
And really, shouldn’t we embrace anything that brings people to study and connect with Judaism?
There is so much hate in the world… so much anti-Semitism. Let us not knock anything that makes folks want to learn more about being Jewish and Judaism. We need that now more than ever.
Anti-Semitism takes a vicious toll on the entire world, and will be explored more in another post I am working on… but just look at the news today… Turkey… France… and back to San Bernardino…
The obsession with hating Jews and Israel is irrational… and it brings death and violence and destruction to a lot of non-Jews. There is no value in it… no value in scape-goating and blame-gaming. In fact, that just ignores the real issues and perpetuates a circle of hate, not life.
An angry guy on Facebook responded to another TIP post on Bowie with this: “For goodness sake….why do we need to be so insecure as to always need to somehow link everyone to Jews and Judaism…”
Sadly, he is missing the point. That’s not what we are trying to do at all.
We are celebrating Judaism… celebrating the power of Torah… recognizing that Judaism has such amazing lessons that they find their way into other religions and people… other communities and tribes… and into the collective consciousness of artists and works of art.
The Ten Commandments may be an obvious and logical way to live, but the fact that Judaism codified these ideas in writing and philosophy, along with many other commandments and mitzvahs, is a most integral and indispensable concept.
We do not seek out Jewish ideas and thoughts in non-Jewish things because we are insecure… but because we see how universal and connecting and powerful Judaism is… in music and art and creation and life.
If one wants to see (or hear) a more direct connection, listen to the brilliant and moving RebbeSoul or Yossi Azulay’s Prayers, Volumes 1 & 2.
Let us sing and dance… lets us find definitions and explanations and understandings in lyrics or a song… or a passage in the Torah or in the lessons of the Pirkei Avos. Let us find meaning wherever meaning is to be found. Let us celebrate being Jewish! Let us find true joy and life in the music of Judaism.