Saturday, November 15, 2008

Remember when the music....

My guitar came with me to Israel.
And then it sat on the floor of the apartment stuck in its case until this evening. The president of Hebrew College and dean of its rabbinical school (aka Danny and Sharon) are in town for the General Assembly of the UJC (United Jewish Communities). They're using the opportunity to also host a recruitment event for the rabbinical school: "What Do We Need From Jewish Leaders in the 21st Century?"

They asked a couple of rabbinical students to present something and I was asked to sing. Suddenly something that would be a no-brainer in the States became a "first time ever." I've never "performed" in Israel before and, as I said, I hadn't even taken the poor guitar out of its case until tonight. My fingernails were all wrong for guitar playing and I've lost all my callouses!

I'm very grateful for this opportunity, if only because it got me to open up the guitar case! My voice is still recovering from a cold, but I trimmed my fingernails, tuned her up, and played a little bit just for myself. I made sure I remembered the chords for the song I want to play on Monday night. And then I played some of the first songs I learned to play on guitar, "The Loving of the Game" (which I learned from a Judy Collins album) and "Early Morning Rain" (which I think I had on a Peter, Paul, and Mary tape that I brought with me to kibbutz). The music of the "folk revival" is also an important part of my own tradition, my own Torah. I often feel very constrained as I walk around Jerusalem. For one thing, there's just not a lot of room to be a female rabbinical student in this town, and I imagine many of my progressive male counterparts actually feel the same way. Connecting with this "foreign" music felt very freeing.

I rarely play music all by myself (on the "best in performance"/"best in rehearsal" spectrum of musicians, I fall on the far end of performance with my fellow rehearsal-avoiders). And I don't think of myself as a guitarist and almost never play my guitar without singing. But my throat just isn't ready for singing and plucking out my "cowboy chords" all by themselves felt very sweet. I was reminded of the words from Harry Chapin's song: "Remember when the music came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire..." and "Remember when the music was the glow on the horizon of every newborn day."

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