Larry Bach's first album, Kivvunim, is an eleven-song collection of prayers and meditations on Jewish texts, all of which are described below. Larry is a rabbi, serving Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso, Texas. Ki Eshm'ra Shabbat. Three texts animate this song: the fourth commandment, in it's two iterations (Exod 20; Deut 4), and Abraham ibn Ezra's poem, Ki Eshm'ra Shabbat. My version marries ibn Ezra's insight on the mutuality of the b'rit ("When I guard the Sabbath, God guards me") with the two rationales for Shabbat as described in Torah. Shabbat is both a reminder of Creation ("for in six days...but on the seventh....") and Redemption ("for you were slaves in Egypt....and God brought you forth...."). The Hebrew setting was composed when I was in high school, for the 1985 NFTY song competition; the English verses came much later, during the recording sessions. Lamdeini Elohai. Leah Goldberg's poem, in the Hebrew original and in Pnina Peli's artful translation, stand opposite the Chatsi Kaddish in Mishkan Tefillah. "Lamdeini" is a caution against the rote repetition of traditional prayer language, and a reminder that the Divine Presence can be found in unlikely places, when we take the time to look. Three Things. In Mishkan T'filah, Ray Scheindlin's translation of Solomon ibn Gabirol's poem, Sh'loshah nosdu yachad, serves as a meditation on the Bar'chu. As we are called to communal prayer, we look up, out, and in to find God. This melody was built to pair with Ben Siegel's Bar'chu, which has become part of the Reform musical canon. Revolution. Michael Walzer's Exodus and Revolution ends with an eminently quotable summary of the relation between our Redemption story and politics (in the good sense of that word). A version of his words sets up Mi Chamocha in Mishkan T'filah, which I find to be a particularly inspired choice by the editors. My rhymed take on the same sentiment, set in a round opposite the words emet ve'emunah kol zot ("all this is true and certain"), pairs with Sol Zim's powerful setting of our Exodus Song. Tefilah. A simple, singable melody for the prelude to the Amidah is reprised as Yehudah Halevi's Yah ana Emtza'acha. Where is God? Where isn't God! The translation of Halevi is by Drs. Lawrence A. Hoffman and Joel M. Hoffman. Everpresent One. This is a setting of the Avodah prayer, as presented in Mishkan Tefilah. The stance of yirah, "reverence" toward God and toward life is so central to my understanding of Judaism. The English text is adapted by Harvey Fields and Chaim Stern. Dreams of Peace. In a section of the Talmud describing dreams and their interpretations (Bavli B'rachot 56b), we find: "Three things in a dream mean peace: a river, a kettle, and a bird." What does that mean? Like dreams themselves, it is open to interpretation. This song is mine. I first offered a teaching along these lines at a YWCA interfaith prayer for peace. At the conclusion of the ceremony, homing pigeons were released from our prayer site - the Keystone Heritage Park - and went home to the Mission Valley, full kettles to their left, poverty to their right, and a river beneath them. B'tzelem Elohim. A beloved quotation from Abraham Joshua Heschel inspired this song. Heschel, like Akiva, taught that our being made in the divine image was a gift, an expression of God's love. And Heschel, like Moses, not only talked about redemption, but he saw his fellow suffering and went to work. Along with the Heschel text (that's him speaking at the beginning of the song, in an interview he gave to Carl Stern just days before his death), this song is built on Pirkei Avot 3:14 and Exodus Rabbah 1:29. Ashrei. Psalm 145 was the textual focus of my 2005 sabbatical summer, and this song is one of it's fruits.The Psalm - "David's Alphabet of Praise" - is a call to awareness. The Rabbis teach that one who recites Ashrei three times a day can be assured of a place in the world to come. On this, Rabbi David Kimchi taught: "they didn't mean a mere 'saying' of the Psalm, but a deep meditation on it's meaning (hitbonenut). Lullaby. This beautiful lullaby appears in the Hebrew original on Chava Alberstein's 2007 album, Milky Way. The words are by Adulah (Sabina Messeg). The translation and the arrangement are my own. It was fun trying to capture her delightful wordplay and bring it into English, and my daughters love singing this song at bedtime. The Night Bob Dylan Came to Town. What do you do when Bob Dylan is playing a concert a couple of hundred yards from your house, you're a huge Dylan fan, but the concert's Erev Pesach, and you're a rabbi? Sublimate! Work out your frustration in song! Based on a true story from April 2006. Music, Bobby Braddock and Charlie Williams ("The Night Hank Williams Came to Town"). Parody lyrics by me, with apologies to Bob Dylan and the ghosts of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
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