I had two experiences this week which involved music and memory. They were two vastly different experiences but each made me think about the High Holy Days and the experiences that the Holy Day services bring.
The first experience took place one afternoon this past week when I turned on my car satellite radio to the 60’s station. I tuned into the station in the middle of a song and the melody of the song that was playing was immediately recognizable to me. It was the melody to one of my favorite songs from the late 60s but the words weren’t right. I had heard the song so many times but these words were unfamiliar. I was absolutely mesmerized as I listened to the end of the song.
When I got to my office, I did a quick search and found out, in fact, that there was an “extended” version to the song which wasn’t played very often. I found the extended version on youtube and played it over and over again for the next few days and found that the new words added so much to my enjoyment of the song. Now, I can’t think of the song without thinking of the “extended version” which keeps playing in my head.
The second experience came courtesy of my colleague and friend since childhood, Rabbi Josh Hammerman, whose father, Cantor Michal Hammerman Z”L was the hazzan at the shul I grew up in: Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA. Rabbi Hammerman posted a recording of his father chanting the Rosh Hashana service.
Listening to Cantor Hammerman brought back so many fond memories of my childhood at KI. He was such a wonderful hazzan and such a mentsch and listening to his beautiful voice just was such a treat.
But, what really made it so significant to me was that I heard a melody to one of the prayers that I had been trying to think of for years. We sing a different melody to this prayer at Beth Israel and over the years, I had forgotten the melody that I had grown up with. Hearing it sung by Cantor Hammerman was like recapturing a piece of my past. Now, I have that melody stuck in my mind too and it is vying for space in my head with the Top 40 song whose additional verse I heard for the first time.
As we enter into the High Holy Days, I hope that everyone who attends services will have experiences like these.
May we all hear words which open up a vast treasure of memory, from our childhood or later in life which brings warmth and a sense of “home”.
And, may we read or hear words that we never noticed before, words which will continue to echo in our minds as a new found treasure. May we find those words so unexpectedly meaningful that they remain in our mind and continue to inspire us through these holy days and beyond.
May these holy days bring great meaning to all who celebrate them and may the New Year be a year of peace, inspiration and song for all.