In the initial shock of the aftermath of the October 7 massacres in Israel, and every day since people say to me: “I have no words.” Whether they are speaking about the hostages, the slaughters, or the photos of young soldiers dying in Israel, or the children and innocents in Gaza who sit among the ruins – we have entered a time of profound sadness.
For many, we feel this trauma in our bodies. It is visceral: an ache in our hearts, our limbs frozen, and fear that grips our senses. My body longs for compassion to wash over me, to even out the hard edges of so much pain and soothe the painful scenes before my eyes.
Music is the vehicle I turn to when times are difficult – and not so much as an escape, but as a balm to remind me that harmony and beauty are possible.
As I did during Covid, I create playlists (see below).
Music As Comfort From Ancient Times
From ancient times until today, music has been a source of comfort in times of distress.
We read about King Saul who became afflicted with the רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹקִים֙ (ruach Elohim – evil spirit), David would come and soothe him with his harp, and Saul’s soul would be “expanded and refreshed” (1Samuel 16:23).
So too, Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav taught:
It’s good for a person to make a habit of inspiring yourself with a melody (nigun)… And even one who doesn’t know how to play music [or sing out loud] can sing to himself and through that revive himself. For the “lift” of a nigun cannot be measured. (Sichot HaRan 273)
So it was that I turned to music after October 7, and it has become a welcome and constant companion during these painful times.
The amazing musician and innovator of Jewish music in our own time, Joey Weisenberg, writes in his book The Torah of Music:
Music is a thread of mercy (hut shell hesed), a connective ‘chord of compassion,” that takes hold of even the farthest reaches of creation–and the most divergent ways of existing–and pulls them ever closer together. The prophet Isaiah (Isa. 24:16) imagined: ‘From the ends of the Earth we have heard songs.‘
Playlists For Now
I created a Spotify playlist called Comfort For Now of music that was a doorway to some solace. It contains an eclectic mix of Jewish healing music, Israeli singers, and secular music that speaks to collective healing. I keep adding new music to it, and I deeply hope you find it nourishing to your soul.
Spotify Playlist by Rabbi Jill:
Lay Us Down in Peace (part of Bedtime Shema)
Sometimes, there really are “no words” and this is a place where music, poetry, and nature can soothe our brokenness.
For every blade of grass, there is a song (shirah) which it speaks. Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav
Thank you to our new Rabbinic Intern, Anita Barzman, MD for helping find some of these wonderful texts.
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