“It’s perspective m’boy. Perspective”
I remember way, way back in the day, when I was a Yeshivah student, I used to help at a certain Chabad House every so often and spend Shabbos with them. It was a marvelous experience every time. I loved the atmosphere, the warmth and the genuine feeling of welcome and acceptance that the Shliach and his family gave me.
But there was one thing that annoyed me to no end:
The members of this particular Chabad family were known to have beautiful voices and a real knack for pleasant singing. So naturally, every Shabbos that I came, I would excitedly look forward to sitting in shul and enjoying the beautiful melodious harmonies that the Rabbi and his kids would perform during the services. At the time, however, I would bemoan one flaw in the services – one particular congregant in their Shul. Let us call him Steve.
To help you understand this ‘flaw’ perhaps a parable of sorts will help: You know the way a chocolate chip doesn’t taste all that bad, but if you put it in your egg sandwich, it kind of clashes… Well, this Chabad house had a similar problem.
This Steve has an exceptionally off-tune voice. In truth by saying exceptionally, I am being merciful in my description – His voice was waaayy off tone.
I don’t have a problem with people who can’t sing. I don’t mind their personalities and I have many a friend who can’t keep a tune.
But when I would visit this particular Chabad House, I would take issue with the off-notes that would be bellowed from Steve, simply because had Steve not been there, the singing would have been absolutely stunning.
I would sit in Shul on Friday night and the Shliach/Rabbi/Chazzan/Gabai would begin the Friday night service… Lechu Nerannena . . .
Finally the highlight of the night – The Lecha Dodi song.
The Chazzan and his children would begin their charming rendition of the prayer with a joyous Chassidic melody accompanying the poetic words of ancient times, welcoming the Shabbos queen. All of a sudden from the back of the room, Steve is mysteriously and for reasons unknown to man, encouraged to join in and holler away with his baritone noises. The Rabbi and his family became immune to Steve’s cacophony and they would calmly continue singing. I, however, took this noise much more seriously. I would sit in the back and fume. The beautiful singing was drowned out by Steve and I would never forgive him.
He always seemed to ruin my desired Shabbos enjoyment and never was I able to sit back and appreciate the singing of this family. What’s more, is that Steve was one of the guys who always showed up. No matter the weather or season, he was their most devoted congregant. Maybe he loved singing with them.
I suffered lots from it.
Now, I am a Shliach of my own, and just this past week I had an amazing experience that I would like to share.
… They say that when Moshiach comes, a new musical note, an eighth note will be introduced to the world. It’s all part of the number eight, which will be quite popular when Moshiach comes.
While seven is a complete number (7 days to the week, 7 notes on the scale, etc…), Moshiach’s arrival will bring another dimension into play and we will go beyond the natural order of things, hence the number eight.
I’ve always wondered what this means. How can nature be broken and how does it make any sense, adding another note into music?
Well, now I’m a bit older and thank G-d I’ve been blessed to go on Shlichus too, with my own little Chabad house to run.
This past Friday night we didn’t have a Minyan, but had several people who came to join us for services. We prayed. I began the prayers and everything flowed nicely.
When we got to the Lecha Dodi, I began singing it.
This week, however, one of our regulars came to the proud decision that he finally knows the Lecha Dodi tune and would love to join in the harmonies. Obviously, he was a very clear reminder of Steve from my traumatizing past. I was hanging on for dear life, trying to concentrate on my own singing, as the guy in Shul was making me dizzy. He was making so much noise, and so loudly at that, that I was thinking of actually skipping Lecha Dodi on account of hazardous exposure or something.
And then, right in the middle of my agony, I thought of this Moshiach note. When our world is redeemed from our closed-mindedness and we are opened to a dimension beyond our mental limitations of what’s nice and ugly and good and bad, then we have reached the number eight. It is then that we are able to look at all the things that we always translated to be negative, and we see that they are tolerable and even (gasp) constructive and part of the beauty of life.
And so I embraced the annoying voice singing in the back. Perhaps I went off-key myself. But I changed my perspective to a more positive one. Here was a simple man, who comes to Shul on a Friday night, because he knows he is Jewish and he knows that this night is one where G-d wants him to be in Shul connecting with him. So he leaves his job and his world and shows up to Shul with nothing more than the will to connect. And connect he does!!
He joins in the praying and when it comes time to sing with everyone, he happily sings. Perhaps to the self-centered Rabbi standing up front, he may be off tune. But he is still joyfully expressing his soul to his Creator in the best way that he can. And finally, I saw how beautiful it really was.
Harmony doesn’t need to be defined by the musical giants of our world. Harmony needs to be defined by each and every individual person. When we can look beyond our boxed-in minds and see the music for what it really is, the expression of the soul, then we have opened our ears and hearts to the magical eighth note.
This past Friday night, I had the most beautiful Lecha Dodi of my life. I sang, some congregants happily hummed, others joined in the singing and our own little Steve roared.
Yet all together, we sounded absolutely beautiful.
And so, “it’s all perspective m’boy. All perspective!”
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