The Idan Raichel Project: songs of secrets.

This evening we have Teri Dobbs, Professor of Music from the University of Wisconsin, as our facilitator with Rabbi Andrea Steinberger.

Professor Dobbs introduced us to this wonderful artist, Idan Raichel (The Idan Raichel Project)…who is a keyboard artist, a composer and a record producer…who brings together many multicultural artists for each of the amazing songs he writes.

Professor Teri Dobbs

Here is their website:

Idan Raichel Project

We listened to a few of their pieces…

First:   Shoshanim Azuvot — Sad Roses…


“In the mountains above our village there is a garden of roses.

tomorrow I will go early in the morning with the sound of the birds

I’ll bring a flower to my lover from the garden of the reds.  I’ll know…

I am his and he is mine forever.  I came down from the mountain to our

village, roses in my hair….but my lover is not at home.

Silence in the rooms in the river by our village.

My lover didn’t come back in the night.

He found another lover and my heart was broken.

No, G-d, make him come back.   Waiting day and night.

No, I don’t have the pow3er that another day will come.

Sad roses and he is not here.”

This is so moving and taken from the Song of songs —

Now listen to this one:  Hinach yafah

“You are beautiful.   In my bed I sought for weeks whom my soul loves and found it not.   I searched for it in all the town’s streets….this untruth and found it not.  The watchmen that go about the city found me but my love I found it not.  But I will not leave it until I will bring it into my city.  To my mother’s house, to my room, to my bed.   Behold, thou art fair, my love….thy lips are like a thread of scarlet.  They teeth are white like the light of the moon.    Who is that coming up front he wilderness from a far land traveling upon the wing of a large bird?  Arriving to my house… Behold thou art fair, my love.   I am stolen from your whose eyes that consume me like the first of the flame.  Who is that coming up from the wilderness from a far land traveling upon the wing of a large bird?  Arriving to my house…”

Does this not match Song of Songs 3?:

“Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love — I sought but found him not.  I must rise and roam the town, through the streets and through the squares.  I must seek the one I love.  I sought but found him not.  I met the watchmen who patrol the town.   Have you seen the one I love?”

and from Song of Songs 4:

“Ah, you are fair, my darling.  Ah, you are fair.   You eyes are like doves behind your veil….your lips are like a crimson thread…your mouth is lovely…..”

These songs have a call-and-return quality to them, similar to the Muslim call-to-prayer.    We agreed that they are beautiful (personal note: yes, I downloaded these pieces into my playlist as soon as I returned home).

One more:  Mi’ma’amakim (Out of the Depths)

Listen here:

Out of the depths I called unto you.  Come.   Your return shall rekindle the spark in my eyes.   Neither done nor forsaken the touch of your hand.  To the sound of your laughter shall glow here again.   Out of the depths I called unto you, come ‘neath a moon that shines brightly your way back to me.   In your ear whisper, ask again, who is it that calls to you tonight, listen who sings aloud under your window.  Who stakes his soul just for you to be happy….who’ll lend his hand to build you a home….who’ll lay his life down under your footsteps….who like the earth at your feet shall live on….who’ll love you better than all of your lovers….who’ll save you from the rage of the storm…..out of the depths.”

Out of the depths — a liturgy with which we are familiar….here is a one of the Psalms (written by King David) — they usually paint an individual in distress, always finds comfort in G-d.

Here is Psalm 130:

A song of ascents.  Out of the depths I call You, O Lord.  O Lord, listen to my cry; let your ears be attentive to my plea for mercy.   If You keep account of sings, O Lord, Lord, who will survive?  Yours in the power to forgive so that You may be held in awe.   I look to the Lord.  I look to Him;  I await His word.  I am more eager for the Lord than watchmen for the morning, watchmen for the morning.   O Israel,  wait for the Lord;  for with the Lord is steadfast love and great power to redeem.  It is He who will redeem Israel from all their iniquities….”

In these beautiful pieces by Idan Raichel Project, there seems to be yearning, soul-searching an comfort.   We found them particularly moving.

They reveal secrets from long ago…the secrets that our ancestors whispered to each other and that our souls remember.






Echoes of love: the magic of The Magic Barrel

Tonight we explored Bernard Malamud’s The Magic Barrel — and its interesting connection to the work of Marc Chagall.

Both Malamud and Chagall — Jewish artists —  found ways to echo the Jewish world in a magical way.

Steve Olson facilitated with the assistance of Ellen Meyer.

Bernard Malamud was one of a few Jewish writers who came into prominence after World War II.  He was born in 1914 to Ukranian parents — his father was poorly educated and ran a grocery store at 1111 Graves End Avenue in Brooklyn.

He spoke Yiddish at home and his parents spoke Russian.   At thirteen years old he wanted a bar mitzvah.   His parents provided him with an Orthodox tutor who hit his hands whenever he made a mistake…which, needless to say, was not the best learning environment for him.   On his birthday morning, his father took him into the living room, wrapped tefillin on his son and said “ok, that’s it”.   No party, nothing.

Later that year he found his mother after a suicide attempt.  She died three years later.    She was paranoid schizophrenic — as was his brother Eugene.

Bernard Malamud was a storyteller.   He would listen to the customers at his father’s store — he would go to the movies and he would recall the stories to his friends.

He began courting non-Jewish Ann — he tells her that his writing is the most important thing to him.    He marries her at the Ethical Culture Society in 1947.     She cries all the way to the ceremony.

His father sat shiva after the wedding….but later reconciled with him after the birth of their first child.

Malamud lands a job teaching at a community college on the coast of Oregon.

In 1958 the collection of short stories entitled The Magic Barrel won the American Book Award.

At some point Malamud found his Jewish voice…amidst his own background and suffering.  His writing suddenly took on depth and richness that was new in American literature.

He was remarkably compassionate to those who are usually overlooked in society — was compassionate to his father.

You can read The Magic Barrel short story HERE:

The story, The Magic Barrel, represents the non-realism of story usually characteristic of folkloric Yiddishkeit stories.

Some of the symbolism in the story — the gift of the tomato — representing life, love, vibrance, generosity…  Red like the red shoes, the red and purple flowers — passion, love, life.

The fish representing fertility, good luck — fish is the symbol of G-d watching over us at all times.

The images of “Violins and lit candles revolved in the sky” — so very “Chagall-like”…almost as though Malamud wanted to create a Chagall-like feel to his story.

Here in the story there are echoes of love — echoes between people and their desires.   The author was so worried that he would never find love — and never be deserving of it.

This story represents a beautiful dance of our hope for love, our desire for love and our fear of it….and our fear that we will never find it.

Now — on to  Chagall.

Marc Chagall was born in 1887 in Russia — one of nine children.  For his living, his father sold herring.

He wrote a book “My Life” — with his wife Bella.

Marc Chagall decided to become an artist and left the shtetl….which was very fortunate for him.   He painted what was around him as well as his hopes and dreams — life in the shtetl.     Interestingly, though, he was not an academic artist.    He attended a Russian experimental school which was influenced by ideas of Parisian art.

He moved to Paris in 1910-12.  He held studio space in LaRouche, surrounded by many other Russian Jewish artists.    They were heavily influenced by Modernism, Cubism, Abstract art.

Chagall was personally influenced by Russian icons.   He created separate spaces of color which would represent different people — in icons people are always floating through space.

He was influenced by circuses.   He created circular spaces to indicate movement.

“The Birthday”

Here, in “The Birthday”, he is together with Bella.  He met Bella in Vitelosk.  He never wanted to tell his birthday.    One year Bella figured it out and ran all over town to buy his favorite things for the birthday.   In this painting Chagall is falling over backwards with ecstasy and joy from what she did for him.   This was an emotional piece.

“Listening to the Cock”

Here we have lovers, pig, cow (a chicken representing sin?) and eggs representing fertility and life.

These paintings are dreamlike.

“The White Crucifixion”

The White Crucifixion was painted after the breakout of the Nazi pogroms in November 1938.   So many symbols of hope and despair intermingled…like life, like love.

We continue to be inspired by these amazing artists and their magical way of echoing dreams and folklore and reality.

Such an interesting session!   (I was so inspired!)