Playing With The Band

I’ve played guitars for more than sixty years, and as almost every musician experiences, between practice time and just for the love of playing, the vast majority of that time I’ve played by myself. But, again as almost every musician knows, it’s much more fun to play with others. We live to play with the band.

Alone, we can give our personal creativity free reign, but we quickly run into the limits of talking with and to ourselves. With no one else providing their input, their unique musical ideas, it’s not long and we merely repeat ourselves endlessly. Not only does that become boring, but without another responding, we really can’t even begin to evaluate the value of what we’re doing.

Curiously, but not surprisingly, this is also the model of Torah study, discussing/arguing/bouncing ideas with a chavruta, a study partner. This word is also based on Chaver, friend and, when used as a verb, means to join. It cannot be productively, let alone satisfyingly, alone.

Synergy, which in Greek simply means working together has come to mean the phenomenon when the total is greater than the mere sum of the parts. Modern recording techniques make it easy to isolate individual parts in a performance and it quickly becomes apparent that a bluegrass band is much more than a guitarist and a banjo player and a mandolinist and a bassist. Listen to a quartet like, for example, the Julliard String Quartet perform complex music like Bartok’s third quartet, You rarely hear a bare instrument or a single line, but, rather, a full mosaic of sound. Watch their eye-contact and their other communication. Everyone performs not just the music score written for them, but joins the others to make something much greater.

Similarly, just recently out of slavery, Am Yisraei, The Jewish People, joined together to create a “communal art project”, encompassing many intricate arts as well as design and organization challenges to build the Mishkan, a portable Dwelling for The Creator, as He accompanied us on our journey through the desert, HaMidbar (a Divine Conversation). The design and execution were such that it became a model hundreds of years later for both of the now-destroyed Temples in Jerusalem, as well as a template for the Eternal, yet-to-built, Third House (Bayit Shlishi), a House of Prayer for All Nations, an eternal meeting place for all humanity to meet with The Divine at the Center of the World, Jerusalem (The Inheritance of Peace).

Mei HaShiloach, written almost 150 years ago, describes the process as the humblest vessels of the Mishkan, the Yetidot, the stakes to hold up the boards of the courtyard, as covered with copper. You might think that this indicates that they were the least valued of the holy vessels since all the objects were either made of or plated with gold, silver or copper. with copper the least rare, least expensive of the three. But, rather, he points out that in the kabbalistic sense, copper points to complete mastery which transcends mere knowledge (of the three intellectual faculties, knowledge/facts/conclusions, Da’at, is far below Inspiration (Chachma) and analysis/process (Binah). Nachoshet, copper, implies complete mastery of knowledge, in this case Ratzon, Will. In other words, even the humblest of artisans joining in the work on this project was able to realize that every detail of every action he/she was taking was independent of their individual eccentricities, but truly Ratzon Hashem, reflecting the Divine Will. Working together at this level of awareness and sensitivity and art, they were assured that every object created was precisely made to fit into the whole, completely unlimited by any defect.

Those who contributed to the materials and who participated in the work, and that might well have been universal participation, were described as Chochmei Lev, of a wise heart. In other words, inspired with a perfect balance of intellect and emotion. By integrating our complete humanity in creating a Dwelling Place for The Creator, we also fulfill its destiny as a House Of Prayer For All Nations.

Likewise, Bayit Shlishi, the third House (we don’t create a fancy designation for it, rather, just Bayit, a house), soon to be built on Har HaBayit, The House Mount, is not intended to be our, or any peoples’ private turf, but a place where each of us, in our divine uniqueness comes to consummate our individual relationships with The Creater. While it might appear controversial before the fact, it will soon unite all people of goodwill in a way where each of us feels a sense of personal ownership and belonging, as well as connection and love for all. May we see it soon, in our lifetimes.

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4 Responses to Playing With The Band

  1. Jacques Ruda says:

    I think it is also interesting that prior to the construction of the “Mishkon” the Israelites were constantly complaining. The construction allowed them all to participate and the complaining ceased (at least for a while). It is probably the only Jewish fund raising effort that was stopped because enough was given. It is a lesson for all groups that when people feel they have a “buy in” they work much better together. The fact that they gave voluntarily is in contrast to Solomon’s Temple which lacked that unifying feature.

    • Very interesting observation.
      I notice they also didn’t set up fund-raising offices in Manharttat, didn’t hire a staff of fundraisers, didn’t commission expensive letterheads and stationary. Participation was it’s own reward and, for that project at least, it was more than sufficient.
      Thanks for starting this train of thought, Jaeques.

  2. Marc Render says:

    Beautifully expressed. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts…

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