Friday, May 23, 2008

Breaking the Fast

During the first days of the counting of the Omer, I always chafe at the restriction on listening to music, looking for leniencies that allow recorded music or a capella. The restrictions commemorate a plaque in which the disciples of Rabbi Akiva died by the thousands due to needless hatred. My personal view is that citizens of a nation are like cells of a body As a body, we are the same entity that was struck with a plague, even if we are as individuals chronologically younger. Seen on that level, it is I (we) who have been afflicted and not they (the disciples of Rabbi Akiva). I tend to see withdrawing from music as reaching for an inner silence as a preparation for reflection rather than some kind of affliction or punishment. (I'm taking away your CD's !!)
On a practical level, avoiding music for any length of time gives me a serious case of music withdrawal. On Lag'B'Omer, I always like to break the musical fast on some songs that have been running through my head. Today, I was listening to Nexhat Osmani of Albania and Ricardo Arjona of Guatemala.
Ricardo Arjona was born in Guatemala in 1964. This multi talented gentleman has been a schoolteacher and a basketball player, who until recently held a record for the most points scored by a Guatemalan player. He is also a winner of two Latin American Grammy Awards. His musical style reminds me of some of the Italian pop music of which I was fond as a teenager. His fame extends across the Spanish speaking world. I like to believe that it is the blood of my Spanish Jewish ancestors that is stirred by his and other music in that beautiful language. Music in Spanish leaves me flooded with thoughts of the souls lost to our nation due to forced conversion. It is for this reason that music in Spanish seems appropriate today on Lag'B'omer, a respite in a period in which we commemorate and try to heal estrangements within the Jewish people. Aside from today's musical celebration, the theme of mending broken friendships and ending needless arguments is an important theme during this time on the Jewish calendar. As Lag B'Omer gives way to Shabbat, it is worth while to carry the lessons of this season into the rest of the Jewish Year. May there soon be among the Jewish people and the nations of the world a season of eternal peace and healing. Shabbat Shalom

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