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The Song of the Universe

The Song of the Universe

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I like to believe that there is a song to the universe. That beyond the daily hustle and bustle, there is a tune to which life is playing, and that our task is to learn the rhythm of the Divine plan and fall into step with it.

You can see when someone is in sync with the song. You can see it on their face, in their eyes, the way they talk, the way they lead their life. These individuals have the strongest faith; they don't live in doubt, they have nothing to fear. They radiate joy; they are happy people.

I met him in the falafel store. He was wearing a white, crocheted Breslov-style kippah, and he was talking animatedly, peyot flying, as he exchanged greetings with the regulars and put together their orders at the same time. He spoke to each customer as one would an old friend; sharing a good word, a blessing, and a glorious smile.

"You are Yisrael's daughter, aren't you?" he asked my friend, as we stood on line waiting to be served. It was more of a statement than a question; he seemed quite sure. "Ah, Yisrael," he continued, as he stuffed a pita with salad, "I'm religious today because of him. He used to visit me week after week to put on tefillin. And today I have my own pair. I grew a beard, too. Now I keep Shabbat, kashrut...everything. I'm so happy."

He spoke about his new life with an excitement that was so tangible, I couldn't help but envy him. He spoke with a passion and enthusiasm that can only be born from connecting to the Infinite in the deepest way. He spoke like he could hear the song.

I have learned that in order to fully connect to a melody, you must be able to let go of yourself. When you are preoccupied with details, you cannot truly listen, and when you are afraid to lose control, you cannot truly sing. A genuine artist can deliver sincerely because he knows how to lose his inhibitions. In turn, the music becomes his refuge, enabling him to leave life's worries behind and be absorbed in a world beyond the physical.

The same is true for the song of the universe. When you are preoccupied with details, you cannot truly listen, and when you are afraid to lose control, you cannot truly sing. When G‑d composed it, He promised that it would protect us. He promised us that if we walked with Him we would be blessed to see the good in a world that may be fraught with pain. But in order to hear the Divine song, we must know how to put ourselves aside. When we can honestly surrender to G‑d, we are no longer bogged down by life's obstacles; it is then that we become a vessel for His infinite blessing.

There is a well known Chassidic story of Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg who approached Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch (known as the "Maggid") with the following question:

How can the Talmud tell us that an individual must bless G‑d for the bad with the same joy as one would bless G‑d for the good? How is this humanly possible?


In response, the Maggid sent Reb Shmelke to the great Chassidic master, Reb Zushe of Anipoli, who suffered terrible hardship in his life.

Reb Shmelke repeated his question, to which Reb Zusha responded:

"You raise a good point, but why did our Rebbe send you to me? How would I know? He should have sent you to someone who has experienced suffering."

Indeed, Reb Zushe could hear the song. In a life filled with difficulties, he only knew goodness because he had sensitized himself to the Divine composition of the world and was wholly in tune with the Creator.

But, one may ask, how many can aspire to the spiritual heights of Reb Zushe?

However, it is clear that the Maggid did not send Reb Shmelke to Reb Zushe to simply highlight Reb Zushe's piety. For the Talmud's directive - that one must bless G‑d for the bad with the same joy as one would bless G‑d for the good - is towards every individual, not only the tzaddik.

The Maggid was showing Reb Shmelke – and each and every one of us in turn – that what the Talmud mandated was humanly possible; that learning the Divine song of the universe was truly achievable.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from the philosophy behind the Suzuki Method of music education: that every child can make great strides in music regardless of the talent he or she initially displays. Japanese violinist Dr. Shinichi Suzuki believed that the difference between the prodigy child and the average child was simply a matter of time. With this empowering message he inspired hundreds of seemingly ungifted children to grow, to listen, and to ultimately unleash the potential they possessed.

Indeed, we can all get there. True, no two souls are alike, and when we embarked on the journey from above to below, each soul was affected by the descent in its own way, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya. Some of us passed through the ethereal worlds with nary a scar; some of us arrived less spiritually aware. Yes, some of us are naturally more in tune with the Divine song, but we can all learn it. It is simply a matter of time.

Granted, it is a challenging experience, filled with frustrations and epiphanies, sorrows and joys, but it is a fascinating experience all the same. For it seems that every happening in an individual's life serves to unravel another part of G‑d's composition. I imagine that with each test G‑d is saying, "Here is one more piece of My song."

Every hurdle that we rise above is one more chord that we master; each moment that we believe is another note learned; and every recognition of G‑d in an exiled world means that we have discerned another nuance in the Divine symphony. And as we journey through life we build, verse upon verse, until we reach the crescendo of an unbreakable bond with our Creator.

I sit behind her in the synagogue. Her face is weathered, her body frail, her legs can barely support her tiny frame.

During the services, there are moments when she wants to cry. When they open the ark and take out the Torah scrolls, everything becomes a blur and she is a young child again, in the synagogue in Warsaw. When the cantor sings the "Shema Yisrael", she hears the cries of her family as they are dragged to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, the words of "Shema Yisrael" on their lips.

But she doesn't cry. She stands up with the rest of the congregants as the Torah is raised, steadying herself by holding onto the table in front of her. She closes her eyes, thanking G‑d for her life, grateful for the opportunity to praise Him.

I watch her, in awe. How strong and brave is the Jewish spirit! How valiant is this woman who has witnessed what should tear her down, and yet continues to struggle to survive.

I lower my eyes. I am humbled. Master of the Universe, You've created the human with a mind that is sharp, and a heart that is gentle. But You've placed this being in a world of harsh dichotomies; a world of experiences that cannot be reconciled by human intelligence and emotion. The sharp mind cannot comprehend; the sensitive heart is easily broken. We ought not to withstand the journey of life, but we persist. We want to learn Your song.

I believe that when you listen to the music in your soul, when you walk in tune to the melody of your spirit, it is then that your life becomes like a dance; one single flow of energy, rising and falling to the rhythm of your destiny.

I'm still learning the song; it is a lifelong journey. But with every step I take, I look towards those who are already dancing to it.

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Anonymous MT, NJ November 29, 2011

Agree Very nice...I really enjoyed reading it and got very inspired...thanks. Keep the good job and learning the song :) Reply

Eula Irene Bunting RFD, IL / USA October 6, 2011

Song of the Universe What amazes me about the Jewish People is that they remember the ancient leaders and their teachings. What a way to teach their children and what a way to allow a person live for an eternity in a world that we are now living in. These special people who may of suffered more than we can understand and still rise above the trouble and love their G-d and lead the people they have been given to raise up and teach them for hundreds of years. If the whole world did this their would not be a need for war or hate any longer. Thank you once again for a fresh outlook that takes me outside myself and gives me more understanding, and what a pity more do not see this because of being trained to hate and hurt that which they do not understand. It won't be like this forever. The change is coming very soon. Let it come. Shalom. Amen Reply

chaya g MONTRÉAL, QC February 13, 2011

Love! Wow Sara im blown away, but not surprised!
I must say that these words that came from the heart , definitely enter the heart!!
Continue being such a great inspiration to us all!! Reply

Yehudis September 16, 2009

Envision the exaggerated name for effect! Sara,
Thank you for this brilliant, heart warming, tear inducing,rousing article!!
I cant wait to see you dance to the song of the universe WITH your ushpizen!....;))

Loved, loved! Reply

Anonymous Farmington Hills , MI September 9, 2009

the Divine song Beautiful. Especially to"listen to the music in your soul". Reply

sue Kanata, ON September 8, 2009

Thank you so much, Sarah! When I found what I believed to be a recordof Moses, as he performed quite complicated taksi in order to post the Ten Commandments toward Mount Sinai, I reached the point where he held stencil-cut papers in hand, ready to take the giant steps necessary to co-produce enormous letters visible to all. His sense of triumph sounded like the wedding bells with which everyone is familiar. When I was young, all of life was a symphony, too. Your work of great warmth and pertinence is outstanding! Reply

Anonymous montreal, quebec September 6, 2009

mberman@vdn.ca I almost didn't listen....I am so humbled and touched by it I can't write any more. I will sleep easier tonight and wake up to more deeds for hashem if he has them for me. Reply

chuna Brooklyn, NY September 6, 2009

Wonderfullly Written Your words and points are very well done.
Thank you for sharing. Reply

Alan Joshua Greenspan Phoenix, Currently interning in Jerusalem! September 6, 2009

Music and Physics Being a student of secular science prior to entering the spiritual world of Judaism, I admit I have known about this for many years.

The law of thermodynamics proves that sound is emitted as energy is burned, is just transferred into a different environment. Every atom that spins emits a certain sound, the world emits a certain sound (Scientists have done research and claim it to sound like a beautiful song bird), but the sound of the universe, since secular science says it is expanding(chaotic)and not rotating can somehow deny the existence of a harmonious song.

But I believe from the Torahs perspective since the universe revolves around the Earth, then it too has a harmonious song.

I believe that both secular and religious proofs work (potentially) since there is always a dichotomy, Good and evil inclinations...so the universe is not only expanding but also rotating. But this is just the physical universe. I can't yet go into the integrations of spiritual implications. Reply

Carol St Petersburg, Fl September 6, 2009

Tears! I almost cannot respond but I will for perhaps I have learned one of Hasheem's songs. I must let you know you touched my soul when I feel the most disconnected. Thank You Reply

Hanna Sydney, Australia September 6, 2009

Thank you Thank you Sara, this is a beautiful message and a wonderful metaphor. I can truly relate to the idea of slowly learning Hashem's song, one note at a time! We make mistakes as we go, just like you do when you learn to play a piece of music, but only by the constant practise, with all those mistakes, can you learn to play the song. Reply