Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, and perhaps ironically, we are also ringing in the New Year 2017. During this past week, I have had the opportunity to lead Beth El’s wonderful Shirenu Chorus in singing Peter Yarrow’s “Light One Candle” and I have had the opportunity to reflect about what it means to light one candle.
The world seems so tumultuous these days, and so many people have been experiencing a feeling of being out of control, and witnessing a world that seems to be spinning in frightening directions. Many people have talked to me about this, and this has been my response:
I can’t control the world; I can’t fix it or change it. I may voice my concerns and my outrage wherever possible, but even that may leave me with a feeling of helplessness. However, I can control my world. I can bring light to people around me. And I can do this every single day of my life. One person at a time.
Can you take a moment to think of a time when one of your actions or your words changed someone else’s life? Did you bring someone out of the darkness and shadows and into the light? Do you know that sometimes just a smile can change someone’s life, or that just listening to someone going through a hard time can be transformative—for you and for them?
Psalms 119:105 reads: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Just as God’s words are a light for us, our words—as well as our actions—can be a light for someone else.
So be a light for just one person. Every day. Light up the world… one candle at a time.
Wishing you love, joy and blessings in 2017!
Before his passing, my beloved father-in-law, Howard Weiss (z”l), of blessed memory, was unable to attend High Holy Days services due to illness, but wanted to hear me sing the “Kol Nidre” prayer. He lived in Wisconsin and I live in California and had a High Holy Days position in Providence, Rhode Island, so my only option was to send him a recording. I was told that it brought him to tears and he requested that it be played over and over again. It occurred to me that there must be thousands of people unable to attend services on the High Holy Days due to health problems or other reasons beyond their control. I wanted to bring the spirit of these holy days to them.
Thus my album "HINENI: Music for the High Holy Days" was born.
Celebration of the High Holy Days does not have to take place in a synagogue. It takes place in your heart, wherever you may be. During these special days, we take a journey of the soul that may travel from fear to joy, from contemplation to inspiration. Above all, these days fill us with hope: for peace and understanding, wisdom and acceptance.
It is my sincerest desire that the songs and prayers of this album help bring you comfort and spiritual sustenance during the Days of Awe.
I invite you to take one more step toward reclaiming Shabbat in your life. Here is a list* of 10 ways to unplug, unwind and recharge your spiritual batteries. Can you make a commitment to choosing even 1? Will you let me know after Shabbat what you chose and how that made you feel? Was there any impact your life and the lives of those around you? I really want to hear from you.
1. Avoid technology
2. Connect with loved ones
3. Nurture your health
4. Get outside
5. Avoid commerce
6. Light candles
7. Drink wine
8. Eat bread
9. Find silence
10. Give back
A frail and well-dressed lady approached me after our Shirenu Chorus concert yesterday at Seacrest Village. Leaning on her walker, she slowly extended her hand to me. “Thank you so much,” she said to me. At first she was smiling, but as she continued to speak, her eyes filled with tears. “Those songs were so beautiful,” she said, her voice beginning to crack. “When I heard ‘Halleluyah’ and the others…” Her voice trailed off. I held her hand and smiled at her, chatting for another minute or two, moved to my core by the emotions she was expressing.
There are no words to adequately describe how proud I am to be a part of the Shirenu Chorus of Congregation Beth El I want to thank those special people who honored their commitment to the Mitzvah of "Chesed" (acts of loving kindness) by sharing the joy of liturgical and other Jewish music with the community, and for bringing a smile to the faces of those who are not able to get out too often—if at all. It is a joy and honor to work with you!
We will be accepting new members for the coming year, and I encourage anyone IN THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE who has an interest in singing (NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED) to consider joining our group in the Fall. Feel free to contact me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org